Wednesday, August 23, 2017

August 21, 2017

Today my Facebook memory was the first blog post for Chris. I find it appropriate that I post his last post today. 

Dearest familia,

What to say about the last full week in the mission... I'll get the bad news out of the way first I suppose. So, I'm almost certain I inadvertently donated my iPad to another North Side Wal-Mart patron because it has not turned up. I was pretty bummed about it most of the day to be honest. You probably could've taken me out for bacon-wrapped filet mignon I would have still come out angry. Oh, wait, that happened... Side note, a member took us out to Texas de Brazil where for a small price of $44.00 a plate, they bring around various cuts of meat until you can eat no longer. But, yeah, the iPad is gone and it was terrible.

That night, the combination of excessive meat in my stomach and the fact that I lost the iPad seemed to prevent me from sleeping. Elder Ball couldn't sleep either so after about two hours we got up and watched Ephraim's Rescue until we were tired. While watching all these pioneers sacrifice so much, I thought to myself, "Am I willing to sacrifice my iPad in addition to the bike, two red light tickets, towing fee, blood, sweat, tears, and dignity I've already sacrificed, for the Lord? Yep, I think I am!" From that point on I've just been praying that some sort of good will come to someone from the loss of my iPad. If somebody were to become curious about the Gospel because of my highly restricted iPad with Jesus' face and the Church's name appearing on the home screen, I'd have no regrets about losing it. I'm just going to assume that's what is happening.

Most of the rest of the week was spent trying to get Barry ready for baptism. Satan was sure giving his best effort to prevent it from happening--including a car tire completely snapping off its axle. Fun story there, I'll tell y'all later. We came out on top in the end though! One other obstacle that we had to overcome was the fact that Barry is in a hard cast up to his mid-thigh from a foot surgery he had recently. We ended up using a white garbage bag, plastic wrap, and some tape to cover the cast. The issue of his leg not being able to bend was solved by having a priest in the water with us to make sure Barry's leg went under. It turned out well and I only had to baptize him once. Miracles!

The priest was also pretty proud that he got to help baptize someone.

After the baptism, we were driving home and saw one of our investigators sitting alone in the Subway he works at. We went inside and ended up teaching him and setting a baptism date. Cool. He also makes good sandwiches. No one makes 'em like Maurice.

Well, I suppose this is the end of an era for our family. I don't think the English language allows me to fully express my feelings for my mission. It has been everything I hoped for and so much more to use a cliche. I've thought a lot about whether I would serve this very same mission again, and though I don't necessarily feel ready to do everything over again right now, I am incredibly grateful for every experience I have had participating full-time in the work of salvation in Texas. That includes the good and the bad. I cannot thank the Lord enough for the person He has molded me into and the knowledge and wisdom He has allowed me to gain. The main thing I will take home and keep with me is the knowledge that I have a Heavenly Father who loves me deeply and is always guiding me- that He has given me His Firstborn and Only Begotten Son to pull me out of sin and sorrow. I know the Lord has been there with me every step.

I'm extremely grateful to the Lord for these beautiful two years He has gifted me and for the love y'all showed me throughout this journey. Texas will forever be sacred ground to me because of what I have become and the miracles I've seen here. It has truly been a loaves and fishes experience.

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Sent from not my iPad

And to me he sent - El restaurante mexicano está bien para mí. Ellos hablan Español allá?
Sí o no? Está bien si no. No hablo español pero un poquito.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

August 14, 2017 (One more to go)

Dear family,

I had a lovely email almost typed this morning, but I seem to have misplaced my iPad somewhere between Walmart and my apartment. We checked there and they haven't seen it. Could be on the road somewhere, could be stolen, could show up sometime in the next 10 days, who knows. 

Well, looks like Barry will be baptized this weekend which is great. He asked me to baptize him which will be a great way to close the mission. 

JeJe still hasn't committed to baptism but says she thinks she will be "very soon." 

I finished my study in the topical guide this week. Overall, my testimony grew of Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer, the Only Begotten, the Firstborn, and the Son of God among other things.

Love ya'll! Try not to lose valuable items like some people.

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Monday, August 14, 2017

August 7, 2017

Dear President Whitney,


Dear Family,

It was a bit of a slow week overall but we made progress with Barry at least. First of all, he came back home and is no longer missing. That means he's able to stay on date for the 19th which he's still excited about. We've starting getting some fellowship going for him as well which will hopefully keep him grounded in the church while he's vulnerable. Another plus is that he made it to church yesterday! My only concern is that his date is coming up on us quickly and we're still only on lesson 3 with him. I guess if he's ready, he's ready and if he's not he's not.

We didn't meet with JeJe this week but that was because she was invited over to a member's house. She reached out to them first and wanted to get their perspective on the things she's learning. I was okay with it because they could testify of things like tithing a little better than we can and we were thinking maybe she would ask them questions she wouldn't be comfortable asking us. The members reported back to us afterwards and it sounded like it went well. This week we definitely need to meet with her though.

I was also able to bear my testimony one last time in front of the ward. That was a special experience. I'm slowly getting used to the idea of going home though it still seems a little surreal. I never thought this would be such a strange concept. I'm sure I'll be fine though!

This week I was able to study Jesus, Taking the Name of. My favorite scripture was Acts 5:41 "And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name." This is when John and Peter had just been arrested and tried before the council. The statement that they rejoiced "that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name" really made me consider the times that I've suffered shame in this work. Of course, it hasn't been to the extent of any of the early Apostles, but it still happens on a smaller scale. People just don't see us as humans sometimes and it's kind of sad to see and often hard to take.

For example, this week some other Elders went to visit one of their members at the Baylor All Saints hospital when they were stopped by a woman who had just lost her child and was pretty desperate. They called us to come over and talk to her since they had to get to their own member so we willingly went to see what we could do. When we got there, a hospital volunteer was with the other elders and thanked them for stopping and helping out a bit. She then told us and the lady that a chaplain was coming soon but was busy on the phone right now. So, we let this lady vent to us a little and tried to convince her to wait for the chaplain with us because she wanted to leave and rest a bit. Really all we did was stand there until the volunteer came over with the chaplain and thanked us for keeping the lady company. The chaplain however had fire in her eyes and asked, "What are they doing here?" then turned to us and said "you cannot be here unless you're visiting a specific person. She asked to see me not you!" Exact quote. She then spent the next five minutes or so telling the volunteer and a security guard how we were trespassing while the lady who lost her child sat and waited for her. Long story short, we were essentially kicked out of Baylor All Saints by a chaplain.

I'm slowly getting over it, especially with that scripture that helped me realize those kinds of things are a characteristic of the lives of worthy disciples of Christ's true church. It's been that way since Adam and Eve.

Back home, I'm up to seeing anyone that wants to see me, haha! So, I'd be glad to visit with Bishop Nelson for a bit. I think I'd like to see David as well if he's available that night.

Have a good week! Love y'all!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Saturday, August 5, 2017

July 31, 2017

Dear family,

It's hard to believe tomorrow I'll be entering the last month of my mission. I was going somewhere with that, but don't even know what more to say... Anyway, it was a good week. We were able to set a baptismal date with Barry who we met last Sunday. Well, Elder Ball did while I was out of the area on exchange. It's set for August 19th which is my two year mark and last weekend in the mission. He seems excited about it too. Unfortunately, when we went by yesterday to see why he wasn't at church we were told that nobody has seen him in a few days. Brings me back to the beginning of my mission! This was never a problem I considered before my mission... Well, we'll be praying he comes back. If he doesn't come to church next week I'm afraid he'll have shot himself in the foot as far as his baptism date goes.

We were very close to setting a baptismal date with JeJe as well but she told us she'll just call us when she feels ready to be baptized and basically we can do it as soon as possible after that. We're working on it. She did fast with us which was great to hear. She seems to have her tithing concern mostly resolved and I'm sure the Word of Wisdom will come.

While I was on exchange in the YSA Ward this week we were on our way to do some service when one of our back tires blew. I think that's number seven or so for the mission. We had a good conversation with another guy waiting at the shop though. He's a Pentecostal and just finished Bible School recently so it was an interesting discussion. Luckily it didn't get bashy or anything either.

This week I really enjoyed studying Jesus Christ's relationships with the Father in the Topical Guide. It was interesting to read about their unity and how unashamed Christ was to call God his Father despite the persecution that came because of it. Once again, it helped me realize the depth of love that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ had for each other and how real of a sacrifice the Atonement was for each of them.

Have an awesome week!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Saturday, July 29, 2017

July 24, 2017 (only 4 more)

Dear family,

That's exciting to hear that Southern Alberta is getting a YSA Stake. And right when I get home too! It'll be interesting to see how all that works and I'm sure a lot of callings are going to be extended in the next month. Now, as for my homecoming, I would prefer to have it on August 27th rather than September 10th. I know that will interfere a little with the big YSA meeting but I just want to do it while all the feelings and stories are still fresh. I hope that's okay with everyone.

Unfortunately we're still having a bit of trouble getting in contact with all our investigators. Belen has been dealing with some family drama I guess, so that has been distracting her quite a lot. JeJe did make some progress this week however. Once again, she shared with us a few of her other concerns about tithing and the Word of Wisdom. It seems to be mostly fear that is getting in her way; she wants to keep the commandments but is afraid enough of others' thoughts and opinions that she doesn't 100% of the time. She's working through it slowly though. We taught her about fasting a couple weeks ago so this Sunday we decided to put it into practice and fasted with her. Granted, she didn't come to church, but it was a positive experience nonetheless . We did have another random guy come to church with a less-active member. We're teaching them both on Tuesday.

My final Zone Conference went well too. It wasn't as weird as I thought it would be. Basically the whole transfer really has been pretty much the same as the last few. Other than planning for home a bit more that is.

My favorite scripture from this week was Isaiah 22:23 "And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father’s house." I think it's an interesting comparison there. Just as a nail was put in a sure place to hold Christ up on the cross, Christ is a nail in a sure place to hold us up.

Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien

Monday, July 24, 2017

July 17, 2014

Dear family,

As expected, it has been a week of change. Saying bye to Elder Brinkerhoff was a little difficult at first since we've been companions so long. I definitely consider that a blessing. I think we got to the point where we were just two friends having fun doing missionary work. Elder Ball and I are getting along fairly well too. Now if only our investigators would meet with us! It's been one of those busy weeks for everyone I suppose. We were able to meet a couple new people that could potentially become investigators. They just couldn't give us an exact time to stop by again so we'll have to see what happens. I suppose that's the nature of some of the areas we work in around here.

We have quite a few people that are sort of "dipping their toes in the water" right now but are having trouble making time to meet with us. That's always frustrating but what can you do, right? We technically had an investigator at church yesterday but we just referred him to the Elders over African immigrants so he's not technically our investigator anymore. I'll count it as a success I suppose.

On the bright side, over the last few months Elder Brinkerhoff and I really connected with the ward more so that's still going. At first I wasn't sure if I really wanted to stay another transfer here but the ward makes it worth it. They're really making an effort to get to know Elder Ball as well which is great. He's slowly starting to figure out the area. Though I felt a little bad for him this week since there's so much to know about the area.

This week I was able to study Christ's millennial reign as well as a few talks. The verse that struck me most was Revelation 20:4 - "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years."

I pondered about this in the context of something I had read earlier. I can't remember where exactly I read it, but it basically said that our goal is not to adjust to the world, it's to disrupt it. Anyway, I felt like that verse was saying essentially the same thing. We don't reign with Christ for those thousand years by assimilating into the world; we have to disrupt it. The world won't like it of course, but it's worth it.

Well, my last Zone Conference is this week which means I'll have to bear my departing testimony. Wish me luck! Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

July 10, 2017

What a week, what a week! Fourth of July was on Tuesday of course. It's never quite as fun as a missionary since nobody really wants to talk to you or anything. We were able to get together with a few members and watch a small parade followed by some burgers and such. The rest of the day we did a bit of service and tried to contact some potential investigators to no avail. We then decided to just start texting some people since we knew they'd be at least looking at their phones.

Wednesday we had our last district Meeting of the transfer and later discovered that we had a flat tire. It's only the sixth or seventh on my mission. So, that took a chunk out of our day. The rest of the evening we had dinner and contacted some bible referrals. Later that night, around 10:00pm, is when it got crazy. Well, not really but anyway, Elder Brinkerhoff got a call to be a Zone Leader in $outhlake for hi$ la$t tran$fer. They're pretty wealthy over there. That left me wondering what would happen with me. At first, staying another transfer in the area seemed like a pretty scary nerve-wracking concept and I was getting pretty anxious about it. I've just gotten so used to being with Elder Brinkerhoff here and all the weird things that happen everyday get a little much sometimes. I also don't enjoy having to introduce a new companion to the area too much. I prayed a ton though and let the Lord know exactly what my desires were and eventually got to the point where I could say, truthfully, "thy will be done." 

Yesterday we had a pretty awesome day at church and all the members were sad to see Elder Brinkerhoff leave. I think that's when I really decided I'd be okay with staying  and, alas, I am! My new companion will be Elder Ball who I replaced in Heritage. He's a pretty social guy so that will be good. 

We got another solid new investigator this week from one of the summer sales guys. They do our tracking for us, it's great! He was anxious to read the Book of Mormon and has already "met seven or so Mormons that were really great people." This means he's statistically likely to be baptized, 'cause that's all that matters right? But seriously, he's awesome and he's searching for something more in his life so I'm excited to teach him. 

Belen also was able to make it to church once again. We had a great lesson with her on Friday and she expressed some of her concerns with us. They had had to do with her wanting to become better though, so we can work with that!

In my studies this week, I went through "Jesus Christ, Lord" in the Topical Guide. One thing I've been doing a lot of is defining words and looking especially at their origins. The word Lord comes from Old English hlāfweard, or 'bread-keeper'. That last part, weard, is the origin of the word Ward, meaning to guard or protect. Knowing this made the scriptures I read a lot more meaningful. 

Love y'all, have a great, earthquake free week!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)