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)