Wednesday, December 30, 2015

December 7, 2015 - Joshua, Texas

Dear Family,

Well it was a much warmer, more successful week this time around! Texas weather is weird sometimes. It rains for a week straight then suddenly it's sunshine and lollipops for a couple weeks. Apparently it's supposed to get up to about 79 on Friday so that will be interesting. Definitely does not feel like December around here.

I'm starting to get the hang of this whole training thing. Basically, I've stopped trying to train and started to just act like both Elder Balser and I are experienced missionaries that know what they're
doing. It works pretty well. This week holds my personal record for most investigators at sacrament with 4 and most random people to contact us wanting to be baptized with 2. We may end up having to
refer both of them to other missionaries but hey, it counts. One of them we actually met at the wedding a couple weeks ago. He has a few friends that are members so he decided to look into it and said he would be baptized if he finds out the church is true. It's always interesting when you just throw all the crazy first vision, heavenly messenger stories at people and all they say is, "Well, that would be hard to make up." The members that set up the lesson and sat in on it seemed pretty surprised when we committed him to baptism. It's always great showing members exactly what and how we do things. Both members were pretty recent converts but I don't think they really realized
that conversion can move that quickly. Exciting stuff.

The other man who wants to be baptized grew up next door to the second counselor in the bishopric and was invited to church yesterday. The second counselor told us to look out for a guy sitting next to his wife and daughter but we had no idea he already wanted to be baptized until the daughter bore her testimony and said, "I'm happy for my friend who has decided to turn his life around and be baptized." That got our attention a little. Joshua is THE area to be in right now, I'm telling ya.

On top of these potential baptisms, we also had our 80 year old investigator at church for the first time yesterday! I wouldn't be surprised if she got baptized in a few months. Really, her only obstacle is actually wanting to be baptized. We're working on it.

The only down side of our week was that our car got backed into on Wednesday night so we had to spend some time reporting what happened and getting an estimate for the repair. What happened was it was about 8pm, super dark out, and a lady didn't see our car parked on the side of the street when she backed out. Streets around here are super narrow but everyone parks on the side anyway. It gets to where only one car can get through at a time. We'd parked in the same spot a dozen times but we got unlucky this week. Unfortunately, we'll have to spend some time on bikes this week to get it fixed.

Overall it was a great week though. I'd take baptisms over a non-dented car any day. Hopefully this week will be successful AND accident free though. I wish the same for all of you as well.

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Saturday, December 26, 2015

November 30, 2015 - First Week of Training - Joshua, Texas

Hello family!

This week was definitely an interesting one. The first couple days we mostly just got things ready for Elder Simmons to leave which was pretty sad for a lot of people. I guess when you spend 7.5 months in an area people grow attached to you. It was also pretty hard for me with him being my trainer and all. Having a companion leave really makes you think back to when you first became companions. The last three months with Elder Simmons were pretty awesome when I look back, especially when I started getting the hang of things. I don't think it really sunk in that he was leaving until the night before transfers. Before bed that night I also realized that I had never even driven in this country before and that I would have start doing so the next day. I'll talk more about that later. So anyway, we did that whole traditional tie trade thing and Elder Simmons was off to Saginaw!

As usual, President Ames held a breakfast for the brand new missionaries and their trainers that morning. When it came time for him to do the "big reveal" and announce the companionships he called all the trainers up one by one and then named who they would be training. When he called me up it went like this:

President Ames: "Elder O'Brien! ... You're in Joshua right?"
Me: "Yes"
President Ames: "And you live in a barn?"
Me: "Well... yes. But there's a nice part of the barn!"
President Ames: "Okay, well, you'll be serving with Elder Balser!"

From there, President Ames gave some advice to everyone, we headed back to our areas, and we got to work. This first day was a little hard just because I was dealing with the initial shock of leaving my
trainer while also dealing with everything that comes with starting to train. The next few days were pretty rainy and cold and our appointments kept cancelling so I was scrambling for things to do. The
MTC teaches missionaries how to talk to your everyday Joe Shmoe but as far as planning your day and teaching actual people with crazy problems, it doesn't help too much. So, as trainers we end up doing most of the planning and coming up with lessons. I completely expected that, but it started feeling like a little too much by Saturday night. We had a couple good visits with some less-actives that night and yesterday which was enough to keep me going though. Plus, we had pretty decent stats compared to the rest of our district.

About driving though. It's super weird driving here because first of all, everything is in miles and second, the roads wind around people's property right and left. It's also starting to get cold, rainy and
potentially icy. I have not crashed yet though! I'm getting used to driving again so I should be fine.

I hope you're all doing well. Christmas time is always fun and it sounds like you're making the most of it. Talk to you next week!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

November 23, 2015 - 'Tis the season to have meetings - Joshua, Texas

Elder O'Brien with his trainer (center) and his trainer's trainer

Hello Family!

I had a week full of meetings and conferences so not a lot happened with our investigators. It's alright though, sometimes missionaries just need a week of figuring out what they can do better and this was one of those. We had Elder Falabella from the Seventy come for a mission conference and the Fort Worth Stake conference so I heard a lot from him. It was pretty funny because all the Spanish-speaking missionaries started pronouncing his name "Fal-a-bay-a" because usually two Ls make a Y sound in Spanish but he kept correcting them because he's always pronounced it "Fal-a-bell-a." There were some confused missionaries.

Anyway, he first spoke to the mission on Friday and mainly focused on teaching families. The next day was the adult session of stake conference so we got to hear him again. This time he mostly talked about the Sabbath and the temple. On Sunday he spoke some more about the temple and having faith to do what the Lord has trusted us to do. I also got to hear from President Ames all three days which was awesome! Rarely do missionaries get to hear from their mission president that much. From all the talks given, I've decided to open my mouth and speak more, invite everyone in a household to hear the gospel rather than just one or two, and help make salvation a personal experience for everyone I teach.

Oh, and I guess I should mention that I also heard from President Ames at the new trainer meeting on Wednesday. You can take a couple seconds to reread that if you need to. I know I had to hear it twice before I was sure. I will be staying in Joshua this transfer and I will indeed be training a new missionary. At about 6:30 Monday night we heard the super intense ringtone that is reserved solely for President Ames by most companionships and we're like "WHAAT?!" When I answered he told me "I'd actually like to speak to both you and Elder Simmons." He then proceeded to tell me that he felt inspired to call me as a trainer this transfer. After we were done talking, President Ames asked to speak to Elder Simmons and told him he would be a district leader in Saginaw.

I thought a lot about why the Lord would want me to train so early in my mission and I think the answer came to me when, at the meeting, I saw six other new trainers who barely finished being trained. This includes Elder Brinkerhoff and Elder Newey from my MTC district. It seems that the Lord is building a foundation of strong missionaries by forcing both us trainers and our new missionaries to rely on Him rather than our own experience. Elder Simmons explained it this way: Most missionaries come during the summer or early fall. These missionaries are soon going to make up the majority of the mission. The Lord wants all his Texas Fort Worth missionaries to fully rely on Him. So, what group of missionaries would he start this with? What's the best way to do this?

The answers are 1. the biggest, newest group and 2. by having them train. I'm a little nervous about training a new missionary but I know it's what is best for me right now. It's easy to slide into the background when your companion knows what he's doing but that's not how missionaries improve and become who God wants them to be. Plus, history shows that both my new missionary and I will most likely make it out alive. It'll be a crazy few weeks but I've made it through harder things.

You can look for a picture of me with my new companion on Facebook this week. Hopefully I don't look any more terrified than he is... You'll have to let me know. Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

November 16, 2015 - Joshua, Texas

Dear Family,

Let me first clarify something. I've only "lost" one solid investigator in the sense that we had to drop her. However, I've had four investigators go missing in the sense that they ran away from home and nobody knows where they are. One of them was actually on my second day. He was living with a member and was taught one lesson in which he committed to be baptized and then that same week he walked out of the house, left all his belongings and is now homeless somewhere. Another one walked off a week or so before his baptismal date and got picked up by a Christian men's home about 20 miles away. That was around the beginning of October but he he showed up yesterday! So, I guess a better question would be is it normal to have four investigators choose to be homeless in your first two transfers? I'm sure it does happen more than we realize but I'm hoping it doesn't become a regular thing for me.

Back to this week though. We actually had a few solid lessons this past week. We met with an investigator again and his lessons are always super spiritual. Unfortunately he didn't keep any of his commitments from the lesson I wrote about in my last email. He has strong desires when we teach him but it just disappears by the next day. We sure aren't going to give up though.

Friday night was super busy with lessons. At 6:00 we had one with a new investigator who moved  here from Nigeria several years ago. Missionaries from other churches used to always stop by when he lived there and he said we were the first to come since he left. Right when we walked in he got all excited and said he was busy cooking but that we could teach his sister and her boyfriend who were there. Only the boyfriend was interested so we just taught him. Our actual investigator sat on the floor taking the nasty bits out of his pile of bean/seed looking things while we taught. Apparently that's what he meant by cooking. The boyfriend was one of those "It doesn't matter, we're all following Christ" guys so we tried to teach him about the apostasy and the need for one true church. It kind of went around and around for a while but we learned a little about other Christians from him. A lot of them believe that the priesthood is what people use when God works through them. Thus, if God is working through someone they must have been ordained. He had an issue with us claiming that anyone but Joseph Smith had the priesthood because he didn't understand that the restoration of the priesthood was a one time event and that Joseph Smith then had the power to ordain other worthy men. In this guy's mind ordination always had to come directly from heaven. Pretty interesting... but confusing. Anyway, this guy was super confused and we're trying to explain everything when our actual investigator stops everyone and fully explains the restoration with perfect clarity. Turns out he was actual retaining everything we said even though we weren't even teaching him.

By the end of that lesson it was 7:15 and we were late for our 7:00 appointment. This lesson was with a less-active family and their daughter who is over eight and wants to be baptized. They hadn't come to church since around January so the plan was to politely explain that they need to start coming again or their daughter can't be baptized. What actually happened was Elder Simmons got in there and called them to repentance for about 25 minutes and we were out of there. They totally accepted it though! We never would have planned on being so bold but it just came out of Elder Simmons' mouth like nothing. When we got in the car he said, "I don't even remember what I just said to them," so I recapped the lesson and he was pretty surprised. It's amazing what happens when you follow the spirit.

Saturday was probably the best day this week. The whole day was just us going to a returning less-active's wedding but it was surprisingly productive. It was an actual Catholic Sacrament of Matrimony in a Catholic church so that was interesting. I just walked in there with my nametag and pretended it wasn't weird. We got a couple looks but hey, we do no matter where we are. After the ceremony was over we went over to the social hall in the church and met one of the less-actives Elder Simmons has been looking for since he came. He was super nice and we talked with him for a while. After everyone was settled, the groom (the member) came over and asked if we were ready to do our Book of Mormon reading and if we knew where the bishop was. Apparently our Bishop was supposed to do the sand ceremony but he never showed up so we got asked to do that too. Again, we just got up there on stage and pretended that it wasn't weird to be reading from the Book of Mormon in a Catholic church. It went well though, no shouts of "Heretics!" or anything. At the end of the night the Bride's mother came over and gave us Michael Kors ties as a thank you gift. They're one of the kindest families I've met out here. Sometimes we like to call them our Catholic family. So, yeah, that's the story of how we got 1 other lesson and 2 Recent Convert/Less-active lessons in a Catholic church. It was a lot of fun and still ended up being a spiritual experience, especially when the groom mentioned taking their marriage into the eternities in his vows. YES!!!

Sorry I wrote so much this week but I just had too many stories to share. Have an awesome day!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Friday, November 27, 2015

November 9, 2015 - Weird Week - Joshua, Texas

Dear Family,

It was quite the roller-coaster week. It started by fishing on p-day, which we're doing again today. There's a stocked pond just past the cow pasture behind our apartment. That was nice and relaxing and I actually caught one! Later that night p-day was over and we saw that Salad Guy was on his porch again so we stopped to talk to him. He started by kindly chastising me for not talking enough. That was no problem, it seemed to be coming from a somewhat loving place. Then I talked for a couple minutes and he decided that I was now a beautiful person with good character. Also no problem--except for the fact that he had already had a couple White Rum/Coke Zero mixes and "Elder O'Brien is awesome" turned into "Elder Simmons is not." One thing lead to another and I've apparently been touched by an angel because I have a brown spot on my right iris, we're apparently a cult, my tie was undone by a drunk man, and Elder Simmons ended up holding a box of somebody's ashes. After that, we finally got out. So... Salad Guy is dropped. Sorry guys.

Missions are amazing because normally after an experience like that you would just hide out for a day but we just slept it off and went to work on Tuesday. It's about then that we get a text from one of our other dropped investigators asking us to come back. She was in a horrible state because of her relationship so we ended up scheduling and rescheduling until we finally got to meet with her on Thursday. We brought the Burleson Elders with us because we needed another male there, it was a sensitive situation, and the bishop wasn't available. As soon as we knocked on the door she came out and just started laying all her feelings out there on the table... with some strong words. That lesson itself was a roller-coaster but we finally calmed her down and helped her see that God loved her and that the feelings she was having were "natural man" feelings that she could overcome with fervent prayer and scripture study.

That same night we went over to see that lady whose friend we ended up teaching last week. On the door there was a neatly written but disappointed note on the door from this same guy. People usually do it in sharpie directly on the door but I guess he had some paper handy. In so many words, I don't think we're going to see this man again. Is it normal to have 4 or 5 investigators disappear (become homeless) in your first 2 transfers?! Someone please tell me!

I love Joshua though. Every area has its quirks and Joshua's is that people run away sometimes.

On Friday we had an amazing lesson with one of our less actives. We brought a member with us and he helped so much. He brought the spirit in with a few personal stories about his children's struggles in the Gospel and basically called the less active to repentance for not immersing himself in the Gospel. It was done in such a loving way though that the man was in tears. From there we just kept talking and we could just feel that it was the spirit that was really speaking. The lesson went so smoothly but it wasn't even what we planned at all. This is what makes missionary work worth it. I love that man. The main thing I learned from teaching that lesson was that even Satan knows the Church is true; it's our trust in Jesus Christ and his Gospel that will really allow us to fulfill our eternal potential.

Hopefully that gives you a good idea of what it was like be a missionary in Joshua, Texas this week. It had its ups and downs but it was totally worth it. I hope you have more "Brother W-type experiences" this week than "Salad Guy experiences" though.

Love you,
Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

November 2, 2015 - Joshua, Texas

Hello Family!

It was another rainy weekend in Texas. That, along with Halloween, made Saturday pretty unproductive again but what can you do. Friday night was when it really started pouring. We planned rescue visits with our ward mission leader that night so it made for some interesting times. When we drove up to this one less-active's house it was really pouring and we saw their TV on so we thought for sure they'd answer out of pity, but nope. I literally had to leap over a giant puddle to get back into the car and by then I already was soaking wet. Of course, silly me didn't think to bring a coat or
umbrella, just a sweater. Our ward mission leader was telling us about the flooding in Austin and how there was a guy who phoned his wife and told her he was floating down the street waiting for emergency services to come get him. They were taking a while so he then phoned a news station and talked to them for a couple minutes. You'll have to google or something to get the rest of the story.

We also had interviews with President Ames that day which was awesome. He just goes into these interviews knowing that God will guide the conversation and says whatever comes to his mind in those 15 minutes. It's basically clockwork revelation. In mine we mostly talked about dealing with those down days and preparing to take over the area. He started by telling me that Elder Simmons had been in Joshua a while and asked if I knew what that meant. From there it seemed like every struggle or question I didn't know I had just flowed out. President Ames ended by saying that God knew exactly how that conversation was going to go and was guiding us the whole time. It's hard to describe but it was totally true. It was definitely one of those experiences I'll never forget.

The only other interesting thing that happened this week was yesterday when we met with one of our investigators. Her boyfriend (who had a baptism date but disappeared) is in Austin right now so she had to call over a male friend before we could teach her. This friend looked a little rough around the edges but had a pretty kind personality overall. Our investigator told him on the phone that we were just there to talk to her and he didn't have to listen. I think Elder Simmons and I were both thinking "we'll see about that. You can't just ignore two guys talking about the restored gospel." SPOILER ALERT: He listened and said he'll get baptized if he finds out the church is true. Okay, now let's back up. Before we even started teaching he told us his life story and let me tell you, he had some serious "baptismal interview question #4" issues. People just see the name tag and share TMI details like there's no tomorrow. Anyway, it was a good lesson for both of them and the friend is more committed to go to church then I've seen anyone. At the end of the lesson he even chastised our investigator for also meeting with the Jehovah's Witnesses (GASP!). His exact words were "That is not the church you want."

Definitely a good week down here in Joshua, Texas. Hope you have a good week and don't get to jealous of the sunny, 70 degree day I have ahead of me.

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Friday, November 6, 2015

October 26, 2015 - Joshua, Texas

Dear family,

Glad you were all thinking of me this week with the cold. 60 degrees is pretty rough but I think I came out alright, haha. I actually had no idea there was a hurricane going on this weekend until I read your emails. It makes sense now because it was like 80 degrees one day and the next it was pouring rain and I thought "Wow, my first Texan rain!" Then it didn't stop and I kind of got over it. I guess everyone around here is just used to hurricanes happening nearby so they don't really think much of it, especially this far inland. I think most of the water ended up pooling in random fields and such so we didn't really have any flooding per se. It was about as much as you'd see in Stirling during the spring. It's mostly dry now.

The rain did put a bit of a damper on the work though. On Saturday literally every appointment we had was cancelled. Some people were busy and some just didn't want to go outside. We also didn't think people would be quite as willing to talk to us on their doorstep if it was pouring rain so we just thought of some less-actives to visit. It wasn't the most productive day but we tried.

The weekend was made even more interesting by the fact that the members we live with/in their barn were gone and left their dogs outside. They do have a shop for the dogs to sleep in but one of them, Sam, is super scared of thunder. He was the last one I would have guessed to have that problem because he is the oldest, the biggest, and never seems to be bothered by Murphy who is hyper and
jumps all over him. Anyway, so Sam has been hanging out by our sliding door all weekend and has managed to even open it a few times. Three times this weekend we came home to find him napping in our apartment! Another time he just walked in while we were sleeping! Oh, Sam... The other dog is named Jack or Flapjack. He's pretty fat and doesn't enjoy running around quite as much as the other two. Unless it involves food.

Yesterday was pretty spiritual and relaxing despite the cold. In the morning I studied the Atonement and Sacrament a little which is always nice. It makes the sacrament a lot more special. There was an amazing talk given during sacrament meeting too. I wasn't really that focused but I could tell it was given by the spirit because I could feel it and the speaker said a lot of the same things I hear from President Ames and the apostles. That's something I've noticed lately; if people are speaking by the spirit they end up teaching a lot of the same things in the same way. The Lord seems to guide the Church in specific directions through those that represent Him and right now I think we're being pushed to make the Sacrament more meaningful and really understand why we keep commandments. One thing that is really emphasized in this mission is that keeping commitments from missionaries is preparation for keeping commandments from God, keeping commandments allows us to make covenants, and making covenants prepares us for God's kingdom. We're really just learning how to
become like Him. That's our whole purpose and it is accomplished by God telling us exactly how he lives. Once we learn this, commandments seem more like a gift than a barrier. The challenge we were given in sacrament meeting yesterday was to treat the sacrament like we would any other memorial because it is one. It's up to us to decide what that means.

So, that's what I learned this week. Hope ya'll have a good day!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

October 19, 2015 - Joshua, Texas

Hello Family,

I really try not to count the days but I realized this morning that it was exactly two months ago that I left for the MTC. It's pretty hard to believe. The farther I get into my mission the better my MTC experience seems. I'm sure I'll look back to my first transfer the same way in a couple months. In case you haven't figured it out, I was not transferred last week. I just forgot to mention that. I do have a new district leader though. His name is Elder Pulver and he seems pretty loving and funny. Elder Allison was replaced by a new missionary so the district leader is now in Burleson. I haven't been out that long, but the idea of a district leader in Burleson is still weird to me... 

Should be a good transfer though. There are a couple newer members who are planning on going through the temple in November, so we may be able to go with them. We've also been invited to a less-active guy's wedding. He's marrying into a Catholic family so they're doing a reading and stuff during the ceremony. His fiancĂ© is actually encouraging him to embrace his Mormon side so they invited us over for dinner and asked us to do a reading from the Book of Mormon. Should be a good experience. 

The rest of the week was mostly full of street contacting. We went to Godley with our bikes on Wednesday and rode around talking to people. We ended up giving out two Books of Mormon and got 5 new investigators. While riding around we also came across a necromancer and a sort-of-basher. I say sort of because he just referred us to his preacher, told us we were heretics for not believing in the trinity, and gave us firm handshakes obviously meant to show dominance. That was the worst of it though. Overall, it was a super successful day. Probably one of the best by stats that I've had on my mission. People were just prepared for our message that day.
And this letter would not be complete if I did not tell you about the amazing food I ate this week. Firstly I had a Brisket Taco at Del Norte Taco in Godley. Talk about Tex Mex. If there is one place I want to take ya'll to in Texas, it is Del Norte Taco. We also ate at Nicky D's with bishop this week. Most amazing burger I've ever had. Nelson burgers come in a close 2nd only because Nicky D's toasts the buns to perfection and has crazy varieties of toppings. 

I also feel obligated to share my funny story for the week. So, we walk into the library (you know this is going to be good now) and ask to use a single computer to print a report for ward council. Obviously, we need another chair so I grab one from a nearby table and place it in next to Elder Simmons'. In front of said chair is a small wooden barrier preventing fellow library computer users from snooping on each other. Harmless right? Wrong. As I begin to sit down in my chair, I manage to whack my face on this barrier. It hurt but I'd whacked my face on things before, no big deal right? Wrong. As I'm laughing at myself I feel blood dripping from my lip. I cut my lip on the blunt edge of a wooden barrier! I then turn to Elder Simmons and we head to the bathroom so I can clean up. After a few minutes the bleeding had almost stopped and this guy about my age walks in and says, "You get punched?" To which I reply, "Well... by a stationary piece of wood." On his way out he turns to me and says, "Good luck man. Watch out for those pieces of wood." I'm hoping this guy has a more normal experience with missionaries sometime, but for now at least he knows we have a sense of humor and are prone to human accidents just like everyone else.

With that, have an awesome week and watch your faces!

Love ya'll,
Elder O'Brien (the bleeder)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

October 12, 2015 - Joshua, Texas - What do you do with a drunken sailor?

Hello family!

It was a pretty good week and definitely a good birthday yesterday. Everyone's cards got here in time and I just got a call this morning from the mission office wishing me a happy birthday yesterday. All the gifts will definitely come in handy, especially the keyboard. It was kind of weird just opening them alone at my desk but it didn't make it mean any less meaningful. So, thank you for all the emails and presents :) I didn't even think I was going to have a dinner appointment yesterday but it turns out Elder Simmons was lying to me the whole week. Actually, the relief society president volunteered not
knowing someone else had signed up. We didn't see the calendar until yesterday because of general conference so Elder Simmons told her we didn't have a dinner scheduled. It all worked out though. We just went to dinner at one house and dessert at another and did the whole birthday thing. It was super nice of them and we got an extra member lesson in!

The lady at our dinner appointment was talking about her mission in Mexico and how she fasted for 6 days because they had no food and that she walked around with no shoes because hers had worn out. It sounded rough but she talked about it as if it was nothing. That family is missionary-focused beyond belief too. She told us that missions never end and she has taken that to heart for the last fifteen years.

Now to the humorous part of the week. First of all, our mission started a challenge this week to read the Book of Mormon twenty minutes a day and also place at least one a day. A Book of Mormon
placement has to include the words "I know," "Will you," and "When can we?" Which also means our goal is to get one new investigator a day.

So, the night this challenge started we were heading home without a single placement and we decided to stop at one more house. Even before we could knock on the door we see this man sitting in his driveway smoking and drinking. The guy invites us to sit down, offers  us a beer jokingly, and starts asking questions. At first they were pretty valid but he just kept getting more and more drunk until he starting asking about the most obscure things ever like where did God come from. I guess that's a valid question too, but he wouldn't let us answer before he asked another question! He also went behind a wall outside to relieve himself a couple times. We ended up staying until about 10:15 because Elder Simmons really didn't want to leave without answering his questions. But hey, we got the Book of Mormon to him and set up a return appointment.

So fast forward a couple days. We go to his house and knock on the door... no answer. So we leave and come back 30 minutes later to find him in his driveway again. He tells us he was just working on his boat and that he waved at us a couple times to get to come over to his shop. Anyway, we get talking and he tells us about his life problems as people do. All his questions totally made sense after a few minutes! He lost a child and a fiance a few years ago and is honestly seeking for answers about the afterlife. He told us that he really wants to just be our friends though and give us a break from teaching. It seems like he really cares and knows how to build relationships. He told us to do something for him (be genuine with him and don't treat him as a project) and offered us something in return (food.) Unfortunately we did not have time for salad. I left feeling like I specifically was meant to meet this guy and teach him about the plan of salvation as his friend.

One more funny story with him. After a couple days he phoned us while I was on an exchange. Apparently Elder Simmons and Allison were in an appointment so they couldn't answer. Afterwards, they check the messages and hear, "Hey. Call me back. *chewing noises* Yaa'll want salad? *more chewing noises*" I love this man.

Moral of the story: if you come across a drunken sailor... teach him the plan of salvation. Have a good week and keep on ponderizing!

Also, I forgot to mention that Elder Simmons and I were looking at FamilySearch and discovered that we are 4th cousins through the O'Brien side. Elder Simmons just came across a John O'Brien and he
turned out to be a common ancestor. The story is that John O'Brien passed away and one of his sons took his wife into his home in Idaho. The son's house then burned down and a bunch of the family moved to Raymond. This is where John O'Brien's wife died. After a while about half the O'Briens moved back to Utah and Idaho. This included Mary O'Brien who married a Simmons. The rest is history.

At least that's what I got from my short skim of biographies.

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

October 5, 2015 - Conference, Cows and Other Critters - Joshua, Texas

Dear family,

Sounds like you had a pretty good conference weekend. There were some pretty awesome talks and it sounds like everyone had those couple they really loved. It was cool to watch being out on a mission because they, the speakers, taught basically the same things we always teach. They even used a lot of the same scriptures. There seemed to be an emphasis on following prophets and apostles and keeping the commandments. There truly is a lot of power in doing both. That's why we as missionaries try to help people repent, not because they're bad people but because our Heavenly Father has promised them literally everything if they do. Unfortunately, we're having a little trouble getting our investigators to understand that. They'll get there though, the desire is there.

There were a couple cool experiences from conference that I'd like to share. First of all was when Elder Martino spoke. It was a bit of a hard week for me and I was struggling to feel at home here and when he got up to speak it made me think back to the Sunday after I got my call. I remember Elder Martino being at stake conference and hearing I was called to Texas Fort Worth. He rushed over to tell me he grew up in that area and took me around the shoulders so tight I could hardly breathe. I don't remember what advice he gave to me but I remember feeling excited to serve there. When I heard him speak it brought those feelings back and comforted me again. It's like both that stake
conference and his talk were just for me. Makes you really consider how aware our Heavenly Father is of our struggles. It was definitely a testimony builder.

The second experience was when the new councilor in General Sunday School spoke. He started talking about "ponderizing" and Elder Simmons turned to me and said "Wait, who is he? The Dallas missionaries do this." Turns out the speaker was actually the Texas Dallas Mission President not too long ago. When he started talking about how to ponderize I thought, "I'm gonna challenge my family to do this!" But, like a good mission president, he already did that. Soooo, I'll be following up with you next week since he can't. If you don't keep this commitment you'll no longer be a "progressing investigator," you'll get the slightly less encouraging "other investigator" title. All kidding aside, I think this is something that will really benefit all of us.

In other news, I saw my first armadillo this week and had my first bowl of Blue Bell ice cream. We were told we'd never have it, but luckily someone went to Austin and got some before the priesthood
session. Also, apparently a cow got out into the yard earlier this week. Joshua's prone to weirdness like that. I wasn't here, but it reminded me of stories I would hear at home.

That's about all for this week, have a good day!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Ps. Thanks for the birthday wishes, I'll do my best to make it a good day.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

September 28, 2015 - Joshua, Texas

Hello Family!

It was another good week in Joshua. We've been focusing on improving our Tracting as a companionship lately, especially having the faith to find those who are ready for the gospel or even those who will just talk to us. It really helped us this week. We had 7 "other lessons" which means they were lessons without a member present. Any lesson while tracting that includes a commitment counts towards this stat. The mission average is about 3 per week with 9 lessons total, so 7 was
awesome. Lately we been talking with a lot of non-denominational people who believe religion is flawed and say stuff like "our pastor isn't religious, but he's very spiritual." Makes you consider how much religious perceptions are changing. Non-denominationals are the most open people I've met but the hardest to teach. They have a hard time accepting that there is actually a single correct church on the earth.

I studied the apostasy a lot this week to figure out what really happened to the truth. There were a couple articles in Ensign magazines from 1971 that helped me out a little, haha. They described
other religions' origins and beliefs. I could totally see how they once had the full truth and just lost a couple things at a time. Studying Catholicism helped me see that their 7 sacraments are just
condensed versions of how people saw the true ordinances of the gospel. Overall I just learned about the general pattern of apostasy and where other religions are coming from. Hopefully it helps in my

I also studied premortal life and who we really are a lot. I read the King Follet Sermon (also published in the April and May 1971 Ensigns) and read about what Joseph Smith had to say about eternal life. He pointed out that eternity means without beginning or end. Most people focus on the end part but don't realize that we are without beginning too. Heavenly Father organized our spirits from intelligences that were eternal, just like His. It changed the way I thought about myself completely. I'm literally without beginning or end and not only can I become like God, I'm already a less glorified version of Him! He's two laps ahead in the same race! When we become glorified He will become more glorified and it's just an eternal cycle. Mind-blowing! I also read a little about creation in the October New Era and found a quote from the King Follet Sermon. Anyway, that's enough doctrine for today.

Eric told me to talk about district meeting because I bore my testimony too. I was actually supposed to give a training on "The Significance Of Being a Missionary" but Elder Allison went over time
with his training. He asked me to bear my testimony about it instead so I just talked about how awesome it is to be a part of this work and labor alongside the Savior. In Jacob 5 it talks about the laborers in the vineyard so I mostly studied that. There's some awesome promises in there for missionaries; full-time or member.

Just quickly, I got the Birthday package on Saturday, so thank you for that. Seeing packages and mail is always a good start to the day. Oh, and my bike came! It's with the zone leaders right now so I'll get it soon.

Hope you have an awesome conference and that your studies keep going well. It's great to hear about what you're all learning.

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

September 21, 2015 - First baptism - Joshua, Texas

So, it was a pretty good week here in Joshua. I had my first baptism whom is awesome. I honestly only met him a couple times because he was in Houston for a couple weeks taking care of his friend who has cancer. I did teach him once over the phone though. Definitely not the best way to teach someone the gospel, but it works. He didn't end up coming back until Friday so we had to go pick up our district leader, Elder Allison, in Fort Worth and get the interview done quickly. Elder Allison was all worried because "what if there's an issue?" But he came out in tears because our investigator was so ready and humble. It's also his last transfer so everything is pretty emotional for him, haha. There were only like ten people at the baptism so I ended up having to play piano and give the talk on baptism. We were super rushed getting everything together but it all worked out. 

On Tuesday I went on an exchange with Elder Allison in Fort Worth which is a biking area. I am certainly grateful I have a car right now. I sweat so much and was completely sore by the end of the day, but I guess I'll have to get used to it at some point. We did a couple hours of contacting to begin with. We had one good lesson with a guy who was totally out of it at first and slowly woke up more as we taught him about the restoration and plan of salvation. It was cool to see him go from a dazed "huh..." to an excited "what?! When can you come back and explain this more?" We also met this other lady who is a Seventh Day Adventist. She talked for a good fifteen minutes about how clear the bible is about the Sabbath day and how the pope is leading the whole world astray trying to get them to worship on Sunday of all days. One thing most Texans agree on is that the Catholics have gone off the path. Her spiel really showed me how far other religions have gone from actually worshipping the Savior. A lot of them around here get so caught up in a single doctrine that they completely forget why it even matters.  It seems like this lady's only firm belief was that Saturday was the Sabbath. I don't think she mentioned the Savior once. 

The rest of the exchange went pretty well too. We taught about four lessons that day. The most interesting one was with a Baptist seminary student who didn't believe in the apostasy. He honestly wanted to know what proof we had though. Most of his arguments were based on small phrases in the English Standard Version of the Bible. One was in Jude 1:3. The ESV Bible said "the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints." implying that the gospel was revealed once and it didn't need to be revealed again. The King James says "the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." Implying that the gospel was once delivered but has now been departed from. I didn't bring that up, but I'm regretting it now.

That night Elder Allison also gave an awesome prayer. He prayed for me first which was cool but he then prayed for you guys. He prayed that my family would be protected and blessed as I serve and that they would gain greater knowledge and understanding. It brought me to tears. I really wish you could have heard it.

Zone conference was also this week. It was focused on becoming a full purpose missionary and working with members more. I'll just send my notes, because I'm running out of time. 

No funny stories for this week, but have a good one!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Friday, September 18, 2015

September 14, 2015 - Week 2 in Joshua, Texas


Good morning all!

First of all, I forgot to give you my street address last week. It's:

924 Conveyor Drive

Now to my week. It's been cooling down a little bit the last few days, which is good and bad. Now I have to adjust to the cooler weather again. Joshua is still a little quirky. The more I hear, the weirder
it seems. I found out recently that the apartment I live in was once an incubation room for ostriches. Strangely, it makes sense.

I had a funny experience just outside my apartment on Friday. We live on a member's small ranch so they have a guy working for them. He was the one who said "Howdy Elders!" last week. So, we're thinking this guy sprayed the pear trees we park in front of with pesticide, because our car was covered in a weird white substance and surrounded by dead or dying beetles. This is where it gets interesting. All these beetles were going crazy trying to fly away before they died and one flew right next to Elder Simmons' ear. He let out a scream and freaked me out. Promptly after his scream, the beetle came for me and I tried to run from it. I got away, but lost my balance and fell directly into a pile of rocks. It hurt. I got back up to find my name tag, hand book and pens strewn about. I'm okay though, no worries.

As far as investigators go, one is getting baptized this week and one has a date set. The one getting baptized has been in Houston, so we had to teach him over the phone. It was kinda weird. The one with a date set, also has a common-law wife investigating the church. Both want to join the church, but he's closer. There's some interesting things going on there since she doesn't want to get married
officially. We're also teaching a less active's adult daughter who is living with him. She has a testimony, but does not know when she'll be ready for baptism. She is either getting married next month or next year. Apparently it needs to be on her fiancé's birthday so he won't forget. We're really pulling for next month... Our other investigators either ran away or are pretty close, so I haven't even met them.

That's my week! Here's hoping yours is just as good if not better! Honestly though, I'm enjoying it.

Love y'all,
Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Friday, September 11, 2015

September 7, 2015 - First Week in Texas! - Joshua, Texas

Hello Family,

I can't bring myself to say "Hey y'all!" yet but I have been promised that my southern drawl will come by the time I leave. Other things I've heard this week include:

"Howdy Elders!"

"We'll put some meat on your bones." (x2)

"I've been saved"

"Less active: hot drinks means hot drinks
Elder Simmons: what about water that has been left in the car too long.
Less Active: won't drink it.
Companion and I: ... Okay"

"Me after explaining what we do: would you like to hear our message?
Contact: *blank stare*
Me: ...
Contact: ...
Me: ...
Contact: No." (x2)

"The bishop has more guns than I do, and I'm armed to the teeth."

The list goes on, but hopefully that paints a picture. If you haven't heard yet, I'm in Joshua, Texas and my trainer is Elder Simmons. He's been out since April and was also trained here in Joshua. We're
getting along pretty well, so I'm not too nervous about the next 3 months. Let me go back a little bit to when I first got to Texas though.

After I phoned from the airport I headed straight to my gate and boarded the plane. We didn't leave for a while though because they had to check out a couple things which took some time. The flight was a couple hours long so I got some sleep to make up for waking up at 3:00am. Once we got there, Sis Ames did her usually Facebook photos and we headed to the mission office for training. Later that night we had some Texan barbecue which was awesome. I do not know how I was completely unaware of this miracle food my whole life. We stayed the night at the assistants' apartment and headed to meet our companions in the morning. We had a breakfast first so we had a little time to talk
before finding out who was with who. I listened to this one elder talk about how weird his area was and the crazy things happening with investigators. I then sat by him for breakfast. Guess who it was! Yep, my trainer... His talk all held true, but I don't think I can really share some of it because it's confidential. Just know that I am safe and doing well, nothing more than a little quirkiness and a fond interest for "Visions of Glory" among ward members.

I'm doing great though. My iPad is all set up as of this morning and I'm excited to actually use it to do some missionary work. I hope you're all doing well.

Love you,
Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Monday, August 31, 2015

P-Day Number 2 - August 28, 2015 - MTC

Hello Family!

It's been a pretty good week over here at the ol' MTC. Last week was kinda neutral, but this week was amazing. Quickly, there are a couple things that I did not mention last week that I want to get out. Firstly, my classroom is on the 5th floor of the furthest building from my residency, so I get lots of exercise. Yesterday when we sang the opening hymn for our TRC (Training Resource Centre) prep time, half the district had just got up the stairs and was out of breath. We sang like a choir of chain smokers and our teacher was laughing at us. Also it's super weird here because all my teachers are the same age as Julie. They definitely relate to us a lot better though. The teacher who was laughing at us is actually just there to help us with our TRC investigators; his name is Brother McLain. 

More on TRC later, but for now I have a story about the moment that Elder Brinkerhoff discovered my true self. It was Sunday. The MTC food had built up enough bleh in my stomach to do some damage. It wasn't serious, mostly just gas. Gas I did not want to let out in class. Anyway, I had to take my companion with me to the bathroom a lot. One particular trip I sat down and was trying to be as quiet as possible, Elder Brinkerhoff still thought I was a well-mannered person who doesn't joke around. My attempt was futile. I let that gas out in the most funny-sounding way possible. Of course, me being me, I begin laughing at this horrible occurrence. Next thing I know, I hear my companion say "Are you laughing?! That was awesome; can I write that in my journal?" Yeah, nuff said. My embarrassment is made up for by the fact that half my roommates sleep talk... or sleep gulp and toot... or just roll out of bed face first and lay there for an hour. All last night by the way. 

So, back to spiritual things. It really was an amazing week. I learned so much about teaching and following the spirit and my testimony has grown so much. My TRC lessons are going great too. We've taught 7 lessons now and I asked both investigators to be baptized last night. Who would've thought it'd come so naturally after only 8 days of training. One of our investigators said she doesn't know enough yet to be baptized. The other wasn't clear about her answer at first, but then prayed at the end and said, "Bless that my family may not be mad at me when I get baptized." ... What?! It shocked us both. Elder Brinkerhoff asked her about it after and she told us, "Yeah, I don't know if everything's true yet, but when I do I'll baptized. I'm not meeting with you for no reason!" Well okay then... that was awesome. I went to bed happy that night. Until an Elder rolled out of bed and thumped on the floor without waking up. That was slightly concerning. He doesn't remember any of it, but I think he's alright. 

Anyway, talk to you soon when I'm in Texas!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

First P-Day!! - August 21, 2015 - Missionary Training Center

Elder O'Brien (the younger) just prior
to entering the Missionary Training Center

Hello Family!

Good to see that you were not killed by any hotel ax murderers or forest fires on your way home. I'm gonna be honest, it's weird to be writing you. Even weirder is the fact that I have not cried yet at the MTC... it's a miracle. I came close a couple times; when I was leaving, of course, and also during a couple classes.

The classes and meetings have been pretty awesome. My teachers are Brother Plyler and Sister Lewis and my Branch President is Brother Brown. We met with him yesterday and he gave a couple callings after interviewing us. I was called as music coordinator so I have to figure out what hymns I am going to play. Luckily I don't have to do it this Sunday

So, a little about my district: My companion is Elder Brinkerhoff who I just happened to see on the "missionariescomingsoon" Instagram account. There are eight other elders in my district other than my companion and I. Two companionships are going to the California Redlands Mission (Elders Austin, Rogers, Reeder and Eberhard), one to Canada Winnipeg (Elders Reil and Neilson), and one other going to Texas Fort Worth (Elders Newey and Andreason.) Elder Austin is a football player who is rather large in stature and was called as District Leader. I think he'll be good.

 I have only met one other Texas Fort Worth missionary. He is speaking sign language and is one of the Zone Leaders. Which reminds me, about half my branch is ASL speaking. Pretty cool stuff. As far as people I know who I've seen, there were a couple people from EFY and also Sister Dow who I saw in the cafeteria yesterday. I can't bring myself to call her by her first name...

Anyway, I don't have much else to say right now other than study the doctrine of Christ sometime. That's basically all we did yesterday and it was awesome. We also practiced inviting random missionaries walking around to be baptized... yeah. 

I love you all and hope you're doing well! I'll send some pictures when I can figure out how to.

Elder O'Brien (the younger)