Friday, March 18, 2016

March 14, 2016 - Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia

Hello Family,

It is a sunny day here in the Canada Halifax Mission. It will be nice to see more of the sun. I find that the brighter it is outside the more people are happy and receptive (including me). Spring is definitely on its way and so is Easter. I have lucked out from a bad winter this year. This winter weather has simply been too easy. It didn't give us missionaries enough of a challenge to get through.

You'll be happy to know that I cooked my very first turkey ever last night. Gary gave us a nice big store-bought turkey yesterday. He gave instructions on how to cook it. We put it in the oven last night at 10 o'clock. We took off the plastic, buttered it and let it cook for an hour on 350. We checked it after an hour, buttered it again and put it back in the oven. We checked it after 20 minutes and re-buttered it. Put it in the oven again. Waited 20 minutes. When we checked it the 3rd time it was nice and brown and soft. It was in the oven for a total of 2 hours by the time it was done. We didn't get to bed till midnight. But it was well worth it! Now we have this nice huge turkey to eat for the rest of the week. 

As I have been going through the "Atonement Study Guide" this week, the talk that stuck out to me was the talk by Elder Bednar on "The Character of Christ". He shares several examples of the Savior turning outward instead of inward when he was in agony and distress. For example in Matthew 4:1-9 when Satan tempts Jesus after he fasted for 40 days to use his powers to turn rock into bread to feed himself. In Matthew 4:11 it says "Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him." But in the JST it says "Then the devil leaveth him, and, now Jesus knew that John was cast into prison, and he sent angels, and, behold, they came and ministered unto him (John)." So the angels didn't actually come and minister to the Savior but rather he sent angels to minister unto John. Jesus was thinking more of John than himself at the time. It is a powerful characteristic that the Savior has and one that takes a lifetime to emulate. 

I went back to an old area of mine last Tuesday. We went on exchanges with the zone leaders in Kentville. On the exchange I saw a few familiar faces. While we were at the Kentville Chapel, I saw some members there to clean the chapel. They were actually surprised to see me. They thought I would have been done my mission by now. We went street contacting in Wolfville. Street contacting there is a gold mine because there is a lot of university students. We had dinner with the Morrison's that night. Their kids have grown a lot since I left. They are one of the families I grew quite close to when I was there.

During dinner the Morrison's told me that it wouldn't be a bad idea to visit the sister I baptized. After dinner we punched in her address and stopped by her house. I was getting pretty nervous leading up to knocking on her door. Simply because I just didn't know how she would react and I didn't know how I would react. Sure enough I knocked on her door and she opened it. She kinda jumped and was startled to see me. She didn't expect that :P. But I told her I was in the area and I wanted to stop by and say hi. She was being very friendly and upbeat as she always is. She said that the church wasn't making her happy and it was causing too much stress for her. She says she has no hard feeling towards the church at all and she still associates with members of the ward. I told her that if she ever wanted to come back the Elders are there for her. She appreciated that. I walked away feeling confident she would come back to church one day.

We had a lesson with an investigator on Wednesday. Sister Nelson and Sister Johnson came to that lesson. It was our first lesson with her since we knocked into her. In the lesson the investigator asked a lot of good questions. Like "If God was so loving then why would he not allow families to be together in the same kingdom?" A lot of investigators have a hard time with that doctrine of the three kingdoms. Rightfully so. I've typically responded by saying because God is a loving and just god. He has given us our agency and he can't take that away from us. He has provided us with a way to return and live with him with our families by giving us the plan of happiness. 

We had breakfast with Gary at McDonalds on Thursday. We had a quick restoration lesson with a potential investigator. He's the one we shoveled for. He said he needs some time to think about it. We picked up a new investigator in Bedford that afternoon. He is 28 years old. We knocked on his door in an apartment and he let us right in. He lives on his own. 

We had our personal interviews with President Pratt at the mission office Thursday night. During my interview we talked a lot about the area, working with less actives, and the Pilot Program. I talked to him about my mission and he would like me to start thinking about the future on P-Days. I expressed to him that I was getting stressed out about going home soon. He gave me some input and said that that is very common among missionaries. He said that their are 3 universal things that missionaries stress about:

1) Getting too casual and falling into old habits
2) Their future
3) Dating 

Personal interviews with the mission president are some of the most sacred personal experiences we can have on their missions. It's different from an interview with a bishop or stake president. It's like being in an interview with a General Authority. There's just a lot more love and revelation in those interviews. Its hard to describe if you haven't experienced it first hand. Chris & Dad know what I'm talking about. 
Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien (the older)

March 7, 2016 - Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia

Dear Family,

The first snowstorm in about a month came on Saturday. The snow began late Friday evening and it continued till Saturday afternoon. About 10 cm of snow accumulated by the time it was over. The wind was 60 km/h and we were snowed in to our apartment until it stopped in the afternoon. After the snowstorm had passed we went out to work as usual. The first thing we did that afternoon was knock. As we began knocking we noticed a young gentlemen struggling to get his driveway shoveled out so we offered to help. He graciously accepted and that led to a nice friendly conversation about the Book of Mormon and a basic Restoration lesson. He is very open to learning about other religions. We grabbed his name and phone number. You gotta love it when an act of service leads to a potential investigator. After we shoveled that guy's driveway we got a phone call from a member referring us to shovel another member. So we went over and shoveled this older lady's driveway.

I came to an exciting realization this morning. I realized that general conference is only a month away from now. I'm starting to get excited. I am especially looking forward to hearing the 3 newest apostles' first official general conference message. I do sustain Elder Ronald A. Rasband, Elder Dale G. Renlund, and Elder Gary E. Stevenson as prophets, seers and revelators. That is going to be a great weekend. Although General Conference won't fall on Easter this year it will still be just as good. 

We learned this week that this transfer is officially a 7 week transfer to compensate for the extended MTC schedule. The transfer after this one will be a 5 week transfer to make up for the 7 week transfer. There was some speculation among us missionaries here that everyone in the mission would get a 1-week extension because of the 7 week transfer. But that is not the case. Everyone going home this year will go home at the same time they were scheduled. But the missionaries going home at the end of this transfer get an extra week. Lucky Elders and Sisters :P.

It was a emotional Fast Sunday yesterday. To start, my fast this month was for strength in mind, strength in body, strength emotionally, strength to overcome temptations and distractions, strength to stay focused, strength to stay motivated, strength to see my mission through to the end. This was a tough fast physically on me. It was the hardest fast I've done in my entire life. In the morning I felt fine. But as I went through the afternoon my body was getting weaker and weaker and I was losing energy fast. I struggled to get through choir, I struggled to get through correlation with the Sisters, I struggled as we were meeting with the Ward Clerk to discuss the ward list, I struggled when we were teaching a lesson. After the lesson I felt like my body was going to collapse but then this happened.. After the lesson, we had about 20 minutes before supper. We planned on street contacting in that time. We got into the car and I expressed my doubts that I was going to be able to street contact for 20 more minutes. Elder Steimle suggested we try 2 loops and see how I felt. I said "well okay.. but if I start feeling like I'm going to throw up then we gotta run" He said "okay that's fine just let me know". We said a quick prayer before we started street contacting. I offered the prayer. When we got out of the car the thought came to me "Wherefore I will be on your right hand and on your left and mine angels shall be round about you to carry you". We proceeded to street contact; I still felt weak but as I began talking to people, I felt strength beyond my own. We managed to do 3 loops and I testified with every fiber of my being to people. We got back in the car and went back to the apartment. I broke my fast. I grabbed some water as fast as I could. I ate some food. Then I was fine.

In those final few moments of my fast I had to dig deep. "Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven." I sacrificed my physical desires and all the strength I had left. It's like the Lord was trying to test me saying "How bad do you really want it?, "How dedicated are you to this fast?" I felt joy and satisfaction in myself after the fast was over. Knowing that I didn't give in and that I stuck it out. It was the most excruciating and agonizing fast of my life!

Yesterday was an emotional day for another reason. We walked in the chapel and we saw the stake presidency sitting there. We thought "okay.. what's going on here? The stake presidency doesn't just come to a ward because they're bored :P." Sacrament meeting began and Bishop Johnson conducted. After the sacrament was over Bishop Johnson turned the time over to the stake president. The stake president got up and said "We release the following individuals from their callings. Bishop Brad Johnson, and Brother John Bosewell as the second counselor in the bishopric.`` (Gasps filled the room). "It is proposed that we sustain Bishop Peter Nelson, and Brother Aaron Wright as 2nd counselor in the bishopric." Bishop Johnson is very similar to the former Bishop Nilsson. Bishop Johnson is an amazing man and he had a huge heart for the ward. Sister Johnson is also identical to Mandy Nillson. Very loving, very sweet, very charismatic person. I found myself tearing up as they were giving their testimonies. Afterward I felt silly for getting emotional that the Bishop got released when I had only known him for 4 weeks. He made a quick impact on me. I cause it kind of just hit home for me because he reminded me so much of Bishop Nillson. 

Something remarkable is beginning to happen to me. I am beginning to see myself and my potential through God's eyes. Last week I saw myself being assigned to be a zone leader before my mission was over. This week I saw myself being called as a newly called Bishop in a ward that I will someday preside over. That impression came to me as I was sitting in sacrament meeting watching the stake president call a new bishop. In my patriarchal blessing it says to prepare myself to be a leader in the callings that will come to me. I am catching small glimpses of that.

I feel like that the Lord has been sending me a message through a series of impressions I've gotten over the past couple weeks through a series of experiences I've been facing. The message he is trying to send to me is related to me going home soon, the rest of my mission, my future after my mission. Some of the impressions I've been getting is "You're gonna be okay, you're gonna be alright", "You need not worry about your mission coming to a close soon; there is still a lot in store for you in these last couple of months", "I will help you deal with emotions of leaving your mission when the time comes", "I have grandeur things in store for you for the rest of your life", "You will someday be married and the love you have for these people will be magnified 10 fold for the woman you will someday marry", "Your mission is just the beginning", "You have grown so much". These impressions and experiences have confirmed to me that the Lord is mindful of me at this moment.

This week I had the opportunity to prepare a doctrinal discussion for district meeting. Elder Steimle assigned me to do this on Friday and after much prayer and pondering I decided to do a doctrinal discussion on BEING HAPPY IN OUR MISSIONARY WORK. I stayed up late to prepare this doctrinal discussion in the 2 nights leading up to District Meeting. I thought of the right questions to ask and the right scriptures to use. I posed the questions:

What makes you happy as a missionary?
What gets you down or makes you unhappy as a missionary?
Why was Laman & Lemuel so unhappy?
Read 1 Nephi 17:17-19
How can we become happy as missionaries?

I focused on Alma 26 for most of the discussion. I also focused on how our attitudes reflect our mission and how it's all about looking at the eternal perspective. I also focused on our life on earth and the trials that we go through on our missions will make us even more happy in the good times. 

Being happy is a strength I have and it's a talent I wanted to share with the district. I think they really benefited from that.

Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien (the older)

Friday, March 11, 2016

February 29, 2016 - Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia

Dear Family,

Today is February 29th, a leap year. The last leap year I was in Grade 11. Julie was going through a hard time at the time and I received revelation to post a EFY song on her page. It is important to note that that simple act wasn't my idea. I acted upon revelation that I received from the Lord. I was being  an instrument in the Lord's hands. Alma 26:11 "But Ammon said unto him: I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God." I have had many experiences on my mission like that. Tiny simple acts that the Lord compelled us to do. These experiences are retained in my mind, my journal, and my blog. I will most likely share some of these experiences in my homecoming talk.  

This month the mission is doing "The Atonement: Study Guide." We get 30 additional minutes of personal study every day solely dedicated to studying the Atonement. Each day there is a talk with an activity. In participating in this special study of the Atonement, the goal is for us missionaries to deepen our understanding of the Atonement and increase our testimony.

I received a cool spiritual impression on Wednesday. Elder Steimle thought it would be a good idea if I did part of President's Training on talking to everyone. I shared with him some scriptures and my insights in a companion study the day before. He felt the spirit as I shared those scriptures along with my thoughts on them. He thought that those scriptures would go along nicely with the training. So... he had me share the scriptures D&C 24:12, D&C 60:2-3. After I did my part in the training I sat down. As I was sitting there in district meeting the impression came to my mind, "I'm ready to become a zone leader." I have thought a lot about that impression and pondered on it. I'm at the point right now where I would feel completely comfortable being a zone leader. I feel strongly that a leadership assignment is on the horizon whether it's being a zone leader or district leader. 

THURSDAY: It was pouring rain all day. The wind was 50 km/h. It was miserable to go tracting in. But we persevered. We had a nice visit with a member of the ward that lives on his own. He is very spiritual and has a strong testimony of the Atonement. Through a series of heart attacks he has come to know that the Savior loves him.

SUNDAY:  Elder Steimle gave a talk on "being a example and a light". That was the theme for sacrament. We had choir practice after Church. Only 8 people showed up. Elder S was the only tenor. We had dinner with Bishop Johnson's family. The Johnson's are awesome! They are such good people and have such good kids who live the gospel. One of their kids is our age. She is 18 and planning on going on a mission. You'd love their family if you met with. Trust me. 

Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien (the older)

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

February 22, 2016 - Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia

Dear Family,

It has been another mild week in Nova Scotia. We didn't get any snow at all this week and practically all the snow on the ground has melted. By this time last year, Church had already been cancelled at least twice and I was shoveling roofs. So far this winter Church hasn't been cancelled at all altogether and I haven't shoveled any snow off of roofs.

I have been "Woodstock trunkey" this week. I have been missing the people there and the memories. Woodstock was a tough area to serve in but I enjoyed every minute of it. President Pratt put two of the most light-hearted companions together when he put me with Elder Evans. The two of us had a blast together. Some fun times we had was when we were doing the lemonade stand and when we had a brunch with the Houlton Sisters after district meeting. That truly is a special place and I gained some leadership skills, and mental toughness from that area. Someday I want to take the whole family to Woodstock & Houlton. 

This week has been a good week for us. Elder Sturco left for his mission on Wednesday morning. Triston Barr also got his visa and he left for Dallas on Wednesday as well. I had the opportunity to speak to "Elder Barr" before he left and there was a good spirit about him. He seemed very upbeat and optimistic about going to his own mission. There was also a great deal of spiritual maturity in him as I was talking to him. I was impressed. It goes to show that people can change and we shouldn't look at people as they are but rather as they can become. President Monson gives a great talk on that called See Others as They May Become. "We must develop the capacity to see men not as they are at present but as they may become."
MONDAY: We were doing potentials and formers and we stopped by this one potential. We knocked on his door and he let us right in. We sat down and he started talking about all these different missionaries he's met with. At this point we're thinking either this guy is a eternal investigator or a less active. We proceeded to ask him and it turns out he is a less active. After the visit we were sure to write down that he is not a potential investigator but a less active.

TUESDAY: We went knocking in the afternoon and we got let in by a Jehovah Witness couple from Quebec. They were being very nice to us and invited us to sit down in their living room and have a chat. They then were talking to us about our concept of  "Jehovah" and they believe that once they die they will still be on earth because earth is already heaven. They also didn't understand our idea of the Pre-Earth life. They couldn't wrap their heads around why we would choose to come to Earth to a wicked world when we were already living with Heavenly Father and had it all made. We kept trying to tell them it's because we wanted to grow but they still weren't seeing eye-to-eye with us.

WEDNESDAY: We had zone training in Dartmouth. Recently, President Pratt got rid of the standard of 180 contacts a week and replaced it with the standard of "talking to everyone". He did it because he felt like the missionaries were more focused on the quantity of contacts, not the quality. It was very well put together training and the message got across. We picked up a new investigator that day. She is a potential that hadn't been followed up on. We taught her with a member present that was a recent convert. The lesson went well. We taught her most of the Restoration and committed her to read the Book of Mormon.

FRIDAY: All of the Halifax Metro Missionaries got invited to a service activity in Halifax. We all went and there was some additional members there from the Halifax Family Ward. The service activity was sorting through clothes and giving them to Syrian refugees. We did that for about 3 hours. We went through a lot of winter clothes and coats. It was a lot of standing and kneeling. But it was worth it. Mormon Newsroom was there taking pictures so who knows we might be up there soon.

SATURDAY: We went out to Enfield and it was raining pretty hard at that point. We went knocking before our lesson with a recent convert out there. While we were knocking we knocked into an awesome potential investigator. She let us right in. She had never met missionaries before. She was asking us a lot of questions about the Book of Mormon and about what we do as missionaries. She seemed quite curious about our beliefs. So we basically taught her a mini-restoration lesson and left her with a Book of Mormon with our number in it. We walked away from her door feeling excited about the potential she has. We are going to call her tomorrow and follow-up on her reading of the Book of Mormon.

Have a good week!

Elder O`Brien (the older)