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)