Monday, December 19, 2016

December 12, 2016

Dear Family,

I don't really have much to tell you this week. The Christmas initiative is still going fairly well. We haven't gotten anybody to teach from it yet but hopefully that will come.

Both Elder Rarotoga and I will be staying in the area another transfer so we'll be here for Christmas. It's also Elder Rarotoga's last transfer in the mission. Actually, literally half my district will be going home at the end of the transfer. Should make for an interesting time. It'll be a mass funeral.

In other news, it cooled off for a couple days this week. Like it got below freezing at night and everything. There were signs everywhere about how to keep your pipes from freezing. Then yesterday it warmed up again. That was nice.

Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

They finally made a mission map on that has all the changes from the last year. The last one was out of date by my first Sunday in Texas. Since I arrived I think there have been 7 new wards and 2 new stakes created. Thought you might me interested to know. It will also help with figuring out where my areas are.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

December 5, 2016

 I wonder who is getting the foot massage for Christmas

 Dear Family,

It's been pretty much your average week over here. The Christmas initiative of course began this week so that's exciting. It's been a little different from last year. A year ago I mainly used it as a tracting tool and shared it with as many random people as possible. This year we've been helping the ward members get excited about it so they can share it with their friends. I think that will end up being more effective in the long run.

The First Presidency devotional was really awesome last night though. I liked how focused on the Atonement and Plan of Salvation it was. It's really sad to see people forget about those things during Christmas. It seems like everyone down here either gets caught up in money and stuff or just don't enjoy Christmas at all. We were lucky enough to be able to watch the devotional with some members. It's always fun to be with families around Christmas. The night got me thinking about why missionaries are specifically told to call home on Christmas. You call on Mother's Day out of tradition but the white handbook rule is call "your parents on Christmas and one other time during the year (usually Mother’s Day)." I think the reason is that a missionary's job is to testify of Christ and that includes to family. Christmas is the best opportunity to do that. Anyway, looking forward to it! I'll most likely call at 9:00am or 3:00pm your time your time. I'm not sure what the plans are yet. Plus, there's a small chance I'll be transferred next week.

This week I was also able to go on exchange with Elder Mendoza who's from Honduras. We got to share the Christmas initiative with a few families which was fun. It was interesting to do language study with him too. He has a pretty good vocabulary but has some trouble with grammar. He kept asking me questions about things people say that don't make sense to him and it made me realize how bad most English speakers are with grammar when they speak. All I could say most of the time was, "Well Elder Mendoza, that is not the way English was meant to be spoken so I don't know how to help you there." I did my best to explain words like "gonna" though.

That's about as interesting as my week got. I'll keep you in the loop as far as Christmas and transfers go.

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Friday, December 9, 2016

November 28, 2016

Dear Family,

Again, this week seemed to be mostly preparing our area for better weeks to come. Neither Elder Rarotoga or I were terribly familiar with many of the investigators in our area book so we read up on them a lot and made plans to see them. We were able to visit a few of them but unfortunately none of them were interested in the least. We worked quite a bit with the members this week though. We've been trying to get the wards excited about the Christmas initiative so they can share it with their friends and introduce them to the Gospel! In the south it's pretty safe to share these kinds of things with anyone and everyone. I mean, how can you be offended by a Christmas service initiative? A member of our mission presidency once said, "the best thing about Texas is that everyone already goes to church. The worst thing about Texas is that everyone already goes to church." 'Tis truth, especially during Christmas.

In other news, Thanksgiving was this week. It still feels a month late to me... I had a few people ask about Canadian thanksgiving and what kind of traditions we have. Basically, I told them it's the exact same. I guess some people struggle to wrap their heads that. That and the fact that we have normal bacon.

It was a fun day though. We did our weekly planning in the morning and then went dinner at a member's... and then for more dessert at a couple other members'. Everyone wants to feed the missionaries on thanksgiving so you just kinda have to pace yourself. I think the best part of the day was the fact that I finally had some stuffing that tasted almost like mom's good ol' recipe. Only almost. Oh, and somebody made that apple/snickers "salad" I really like and put it in a pie. There's no stopping me now that I know people here make it too!

The day after thanksgiving you better believe there were some crazy Christmas light arrangements going up. The lack of ice or snow here makes it a little safer to go crazy with the lights I think.

Well, have an awesome week!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Monday, November 28, 2016

November 21, 2016

Dear Family,

Our area seems to be steadily improving. Again, we didn't get a ton of lessons this week but we did get to meet with a few auxiliary leaders to coordinate our efforts a bit. It may take a little but we should be able to get a good teaching pool. 

I only have a couple interesting things to say this week really. The first is that there's apparently this one less-active who left the church because of some church history and is now getting a bunch of other people in the ward to leave too. Not a lot of people, but you know, a few. It's sad though.

The other interesting thing began as we were walking back to our apartment one night. Can you feel a story coming on? So, yeah, we're walking up the stairs to the apartment and we see keys left in one of the locks a floor below us. We decide we'll be nice and let the person know so we knock on the door and a dog bursts out of the apartment and runs down the stairs! The lady then lets out some cuss words and we all run to try catching the dog. It squeezes underneath the gate and starts running north on a major road. We lose sight of the dog so the owner goes to get her car while we keep following it. She apparently starts going south or something because we don't see her for like a half hour. Anyway, we go behind a dumpster to say a quick prayer and  just as we're finishing we hear a thump and some whimpering. The dog had been hit! Luckily it's still alive and there's some nice people walking by who stopped to help it. It all ended up fine and the owner eventually showed up but we were just like, "What? How did that happen?!"

I have to go but there's your story for the week. Take care!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

November 14, 2016

Dear Family,

This last week looked pretty slow on paper but I think we're starting to get something significant going in the area. We're hoping to meet with a lot of the auxiliary leaders this week so we can really be coordinated with them. We're also trying to get know the members on a personal level so they can trust us to teach those they care about. Unfortunately, it's a little difficult in this area because the two wards meet in separate buildings at the same time.

I had an interesting experience yesterday though that at least helped one ward know me a little better. Originally we were going to do a double exchange so one of us could go to each ward (myself going to Heritage again) but things fell through so we both went to Timber Creek. The talks prepared for the meeting didn't quite fill the time so they said, "We'd like to have the new Elder introduce himself, bear his testimony, and maybe tell us why he came on a mission if that's alright." I was pretty red in the face according to Elder Raratoga but I went up there and shared from the heart. I guess that involved expressing some of my struggles, my testimony of God's plan, and how the Atonement has changed me recently. I can't remember exactly what I said. Anyway, I definitely made myself vulnerable before the ward. Afterwards, the relief society president mentioned that she has a son who's a priest and is hesitant about a mission because of some anxiety. He wasn't there but she said she wished he was. I think if nothing else in this area, I can help this priest understand the affect the Atonement has on missionaries and those they serve despite--even because of--their weaknesses. That's something I'm eager to share.

I used to think, "how can God possibly use us because of our weaknesses? Isn't there a better way for an all powerful being to accomplish his work?" I've realized that that work includes me and that as far as God is concerned, my mission is a tool for my personal growth and a gift to me in that it allows me, imperfect as I am, to make things happen with eternal consequence. For that I'm already so grateful. Kinda gives me hope for the rest of my mission. I kid around a lot about funny stuff that happens on my mission but in all honesty,  I'm changing so much. I almost feel bad that y'all aren't around to see it.

On another note, I started reading the Book of Mormon again this week. I've read it a few times already so this time I decided to imagine what someone reading it for the first time would think and feel just like was suggested in General Conference.  A lot of the time I've ended up thinking, "Wow, I wonder what Amy was thinking when she first read this verse," or "that must've been pretty profound for Joseph Smith to read." Right from the beginning you can see how important the family is to God's plan. That's something I didn't realize the first eight chapters of the Book of Mormon taught so well until this week. One thing's for sure, every time I read, my testimony of Jesus Christ and His Gospel is strengthened.

Your funny story for the week is quite simple. I was riding my bike in the rain and this guy in a big truck came up alongside me. The next thing I knew, there was large wave engulfing me rather forcefully. Yep.

Here's to drier days for all of us!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

November 7, 2016

Dear Family,

It's been of week of mixed emotions. Leaving Denton was definitely tough for me. Everyone in the wards were super grateful for Elder Cockrell and I and what we were able to accomplish. It gave me peace to know that I was leaving Denton on good terms and that if people remember me it will be for good things. That's probably what made leaving so difficult, having a good relationship with everyone and coming to love them so much.

Heritage has been an adjustment for sure. The work is basically what I imagine it to be in Utah with lots of members and very few people who don't know who we are. The area is super small and had quite a few hardworking missionaries come through within the last year so literally every door has been knocked on, sometimes multiple times. My new companion, Elder Rarotoga, said that some people have come to expect us every 6 months. Basically, we won't really be teaching anybody unless members bring them to us. I think the Christmas initiative coming up will help us stay busy though. It'll give us something new to talk about with people, something they can relate to. We had a baptism this weekend though! His name is Cody and he was an overage child. I met him for the first time at the baptism so that was fun.

I think the best part of this transfer is that I'm with most of the missionaries that I'd consider my "mission family." Elder Simmons is still my Zone Leader, Elder Newey from the MTC is my other Zone Leader, Elder Brinkerhoff is the other district leader in my zone, and Elder Reich is in my district. Elder Rarotoga was in the Denton zone with me for a transfer so I sort of knew him before too. Anyway, it's been fun.

Luckily the biking hasn't been too bad. Actually, we've mostly been walking or getting rides. My bike had a few issues at first but we got them fixed and it didn't cost us anything. Overall my luck has been better since I left Denton so that's a plus.

Love ya'll! Have good week!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Monday, November 7, 2016

October 31, 2016

Dear Family,

I never know how to start these emails. I feel like it's always the same. But anyway, Amy's sons got baptized this week. That was awesome. I think it was a good experience for them, they acted a little differently than usual afterward. Lately they've been super hyper and crazy but suddenly they were all calm and stuff. It was a sweet experience to have for my final week in Denton. It's official. I'm going to be serving in the Heritage and Timbercreek wards. And it's a bike area... yay... At least I made it 14 months without having to bike. You can rest assured that I won't be getting anymore traffic tickets though! That's a plus.

Elder Cockrell is getting transferred too which is crazy. They're bringing sisters in. Remember back a few weeks ago when I talked about that streak of having sisters take over my old areas. Yeah, it's real. The Denton zone will officially be 60% sisters and the only Elders are the district and Zone Leaders. Weird stuff. Amy's poor boys just got dunked and dumped. Hopefully they get used to the sisters quickly enough.

It was a good run in Denton so it'll be hard to leave. We saw one of our relief society presidents at Wal-Mart this morning and her response to us leaving was, "That's crap." She said we're the best Elders they've had in a while. Way to make it easier on us... Feels good to leave on such good terms though. We'll at least we get to say good by to everyone in 5th ward at the trunk or treat tonight.

I'm excited honestly. Heritage should be fun. Keep on keepin on and have a wonderful week!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

October 24, 2016

Dear Family,

This week was kind of a blur. Well, the last three weeks really. Whenever people ask us what day we taught someone or anything like that, we're just like, "well, could've been Saturday or Friday, maybe Wednesday, who knows really!" It was a good week though, we kept busy.

No crazy experiences this week except that we got another nail in a tire. They noticed it when we went to get our oil changed so it wasn't that flat yet. Still though. I'm literally losing track of how many punctured tires I've gotten. It's either four or five. The good news from this week is that Amy's sons are all set for baptism this Saturday. I suspect I'll be getting transferred next week so it'll be a good way to end my stint in Denton. The overage child is also progressing pretty well. Our other investigator we're a little worried about. You'd have to meet him to understand. Elder Cockrell has described him both as "a 15 year-old in a 30 year-old body" and "kinda like a squirrel" if that gives you an idea.

I found something interesting in my studies about opposition this week too. It comes from 2 Nephi 2:11 - "11 For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility."

The phrase I was focusing on was "all things must be a compound in one." To me it's saying that without opposition everything would just be one big, emotionless compound without any progression or change. The earth would have no purpose and would "remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility," full nor flat tires. It kind of gives you perspective on what life was like before the fall of Adam and Eve. Anyway, that was just something I'd missed in that verse until this last week.

That's all I've got this week. As I said it was a bit of a blur. Well, take care!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Monday, October 24, 2016

October 17, 2016

                  Posing with his second cake

                     Blowing out the candles on his third cake

Dear Family,

First of all, thanks for all the birthday wishes and gifts. It was an interesting day for sure. To start the day off I had to drive to a meeting about 30 miles away in Carrollton--or at least we thought so. We were misinformed and turns out we were supposed to go to Hurst which is about 25 miles from Carrollton. In normal traffic that should take about an hour but it took us two. The new GPS helped by the way! After that, we came back for lunch then headed to the prison to contact a Book of Mormon referral from a while ago. Don't ask me how a prisoner managed to order it, I really do not know. Either way, we were told to mail it directly to the prisoner. The rest of the day was pretty packed with appointments so at some points we literally had to run from place to place.

We were in this one apartment complex where we had two appointments. The first one didn't answer his door so we went somewhere else for an hour, came back for the next appointment, and that guy also wasn't there. We decided to try back at the first guy who still wasn't home but then promptly saw the second guy walking back to his apartment so we ran over to meet him. Later that night the first guy's apartment was broken into apparently. One of his neighbors remembered us running away from the apartment and suspected we were the culprits. Fortunately for us, our investigator defended our case and it wasn't pursued any further.

We had one more appointment that fell through that day then went to dinner with Amy. She insisted I have two pieces of cake for dessert since it was my birthday and she didn't know until we got there. I was fine with that until we went to a less-actives house who Elder Cockrell had surprise me with birthday cake. "We gave you the biggest piece because it's your birthday!" they said. I was struggling a bit to finish. The very next day we had a zone meeting and my district leader had told the sisters to surprise me with another cake. Needless to say, I'm caked out this week. Why do people love me?!

Anyway, it was a good birthday even though it was a little crazy. The rest of the week was pretty much just as busy but mostly with meetings and planning and such.  On Thursday we had a mission conference with Elder Kim B. Clark of the Seventy. He made some pretty good points and the conference was just awesome overall. Three out of six of my old companions were there so it was great to catch up with them. Elder Balser seems to have grown a lot and even apologized for "being a rambunctious greenie." He had a rough time with his next couple companions so I guess he came to appreciate his trainer a little more. He really wasn't that bad of a companion but I guess he felt bad, haha.

To top off the week, we set a baptismal date for November 19 with the overage child I think I mentioned last week. She and her mother weren't at church yesterday though, so that's a bit concerning. Hopefully we can motivate her mother a bit more and get them active. The desire is definitely there.

That's my week in so many words. Hope ya'll have a wonderful week once again!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

October 10, 2016

Dear Family,

I hope you're enjoying your thanksgiving. I'll be enjoying mine in about a month and a half in who knows where. For now I guess I'll just enjoy my P-Day.

This week seemed to break the every second week thing I mentioned. It was actually pretty busy. We almost set another baptism date but the appointment we were planning to do it in was cancelled last minute. This one will be an overage child of a less-active member who has recently started coming back. We shouldn't  have any issues setting the date once we sit down and teach them. Unfortunately, it'll be for after transfers so I probably won't be here. Unless something crazy happens, usually the trainer leaves the area after the twelve weeks.

We had a pretty interesting contact this week. We were walking back to our car after knocking on some doors and a lady's dog got loose from its leash and ran towards us. Elder Cockrell caught it before it ran into the road and that gave us an opportunity to talk to the lady. She had the mentality that she didn't need church to know God but after we taught her a bit we asked if she would join Christ's church if it was back on the Earth and of course she said yes. I love it when people think logically about these things. While we were teaching her, a young man was being driven home from school and yelled out from the car, "Read the book, it'll change your life!" It was neat.

I'm definitely thinking of you as I walk around in the warm weather. Though, this week I was in a sweater for a couple mornings when I was in the 60s.

I enjoyed President Uchtorf's talk as well. Too often we forget how profound it is that we know God's plan and that we are His children. Our goal as missionaries is to teach the Plan of Salvation exactly like he did during his talk.

Thanks in advance for the birthday stuff. I'm sure it'll be a good day. We'll be having dinner with Amy and her boys so I'm pretty excited about that.

Have an awesome week and stay away from clowns! I've heard some things. I'm just glad Texans are all usually carrying and would take care of it pretty quick if anything "funny" happened.

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Monday, October 10, 2016

October 3, 2016

Dear family,

Sounds like everybody enjoyed conference weekend. It's hard not to really. You can count on President Uchtdorf of course to start it off like none other. His Saturday morning talk is probably one of my favorites. That and Elder Natress' during the Sunday afternoon session. There were definitely a lot of talks about how to be happy. I've been trying to figure that out for a while now so I was grateful for those talks. Now I just have wait for them to show up in the Gospel Library so I can read them again.

We had another one of those busy weeks again. They seem to come every second week. This time we somehow managed to set three baptismal dates. The first one was with a guy named Greg. We found him when an appointment fell through a couple weeks ago and we went to help some people across the apartment complex that were moving in. Greg was also helping them and was like, "hey, I met with missionaries a few months ago but lost contact with them." He remembered a lot of what he was taught and had already set two dates before. Anyway, we taught him a couple times and set a date for November 26th. I think we have our work cut out for us with him but hopefully we can get him ready in time.

The other two dates were Amy's sons. We set a date with them for October 29th, the Saturday before I'll most likely be leaving Denton. I'm pretty confident they'll be ready. They don't really show much excitement or anything but Amy assured us that they're more into it than they show. Pretty exciting stuff! It still amazes me how much has been happening here in Denton the last couple months compared to when I first got here. All I've had to do is try and stuff has just been falling into our laps. The Lord must be on our side or something.

Enjoy your post-conference week!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

September 26, 2016

Dear Family,

I almost put the date as December 26th but I caught myself. It has been chillier today; in the 60s if you can imagine that. Oh wait... you're in Canada. No imagination needed.

This week was a bit of a slow one. People just weren't answering their doors or keeping appointments it seemed. Most of the appointment cancellations were legitimate emergencies and stuff so that at least made us feel a little better. We mostly tried to look for service opportunities but did have to do some tracting too. According to one guy, we don't believe in the resurrection. I'm sure glad there are kind people to let me know what I believe. Here I was believing in the resurrection all my life! Even in teaching people about it! It was just one of those streets I guess.

I don't really have a ton to report as far as progress with investigators this week. Everyone's still doing well and Amy's boys have been keeping all their commitments which is wonderful. One of our Relief Society presidents told us yesterday that Amy and another sister whose husband isn't a member have been telling her how much they appreciate what we've been doing for their families so that was nice. It feels good to be appreciated once in a while!

I had some pretty interesting studies this week too. I've been reading in Luke lately and went over the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16. The theme of it was basically justice and the spirit world. The first thing I found interesting was the imagery Christ used of a gulf separating spirit prison from paradise. The rich man of course couldn't cross even he had repented. When Christ taught those in spirit prison he "built a bridge" so they could cross. The second thing that stood out to me was a quote from the institute manual that said, "justice is the friend of those who rely on the atonement of Jesus Christ." I feel like most people think of justice as this concept that basically says you need to be punished for every little thing. That statement changed my perspective a little on that. As long as we rely on the Atonement, justice is our friend. I guess it just sunk in more this week.

Have an awesome day and enjoy conference this weekend!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

September 19, 2016

Dear Family,

This week was definitely a lot better! For one, Tomi and Oyin were baptized which was great. I don't think we could've fit one more person in that room, a ton of people came. We had two youth give the talks which turned out to be a good decision. They did awesome and it was just a very spiritual experience overall.

On top of that, I finally was able to reach the standards of excellence for number of lessons taught. The mission has been pushing everyone for that for a while it felt awesome to finally do it. The key I think was teaching shorter lessons. At first I was afraid to try doing that because I thought we would have a ton of extra time that we wouldn't know what to do with. Turns out that really only lasts a week (last week for us) and then you become busier than ever. Feels good!

I'll be staying in the area this transfer which makes this week even better. I'll be switching apartments though. Yay, six months in another area! This transfer went by super fast so I'm sure this next one will be even faster. Hopefully we can get Amy's sons baptized before I leave. That would be the icing on the Denton cake. It's the best kind of cake.

Thanks for your prayers this last week, I'm doing a lot better. Here's to another week without any disappearing vehicles!

Elder O'Brien

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

September 12, 2016

Dear Family,

I really try not to be negative in these letters so I'm going to begin by stating some simple facts:
1. On Friday we got our car towed from an apartment complex for not parking in visitor parking. We just came out and our car wasn't there any more.
2. Yesterday we went by a couple less-actives we'd met before in a trailer park nearby. Security then came up to us and told us we're not allowed there because it's a no soliciting area and that they have towed us before for not complying.
3. By law, we are not solicitors.
4. The impound services sector is booming in Texas.
5. This morning I walked outside to find that my bike was gone. Yes, it was locked and yes it was the kind of lock that the mission office warned us people sometimes cut.
6. Our neighbor saw a "weird guy getting on a bike that said 'howdy!!' really harshly and left" late last night as she was walking in. He was on the ground floor though so she didn't think much of it I guess.

I was about to put "nobody died" as the seventh fact but then I remember that we witnessed a guy on a stretcher with a blanket over him being put into a weird looking vehicle as we pulled into an apartment complex. I felt so bad. And no, I did not share the Plan of Salvation with the family. We as a companionship decided the timing may not have been right for that one.

The rest of the week was pretty good though. Tomi and Oyin are all set to be baptized this Saturday which we're super excited about. We also got to meet with Amy and one of her sons. The other son had a football tournament. Things went alright with them but Parker was still quite shy. Him and Cooper really don't have any religious background so most things we talk about are pretty foreign to them. It may take a bit longer but we'll get them baptized. I think once they understand who Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are to them and feel the spirit they'll be ready. It's just a matter of helping that

Saturday was an interesting day for really good reasons. Elder Oaks came Colleyville this Saturday and led the first ever religious freedom broadcast. It was broadcast to all the stakes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area so I got to watch it at the Denton Stake center. Elder Oaks gave a very precisely worded talk to start it off. You could see him following the words with his finger and everything. It was the strangest thing ever to see from an Apostle. He gave some closing words without notes though and acknowledged that he had read his first talk word for word. He didn't give much of an explanation from what I remember but we all understood. A couple other people spoke too, including some members who were specifically chosen based on their study of law and defending religious freedom. Basically they laid out what religious freedom means exactly, how it is and isn't being threatened and what we as regular citizens and members can do to defend it. They came right out and said that the church is not at risk of having to perform same-sex marriages. Religious schools however are at risk of being denied funding for example. It was an interesting couple hours for sure. I'll send the notes I took.

Well, have an awesome week and stay away from trailers and apartments as much as possible!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

September 5, 2016

Dear Family,

It's been a super quick but very weird week. Not like Joshua weird but more of a "that was an odd moment..." kind of weird. It came in 2s. First of all, two attempts to anti us from random people. The first came in the mail from a couple in Utah named John and Jane and was a collection of audio book CDs designed to make me a "master teacher". Subjects included "Was Adam set up to fail?" and "Why was the priesthood restricted?" Despite the kind words expressed in the personal letter and the "A for effort" attempt at spelling my name, I chose not to listen and just threw the CDs away... in tiny pieces. The very next day we were sitting in a lesson and that same guy who called Elder Parkinson and I three times last transfer to bash with us called again!

The second set of 2s involved us knocking into less-active members who are not in our wards' records. On Friday we went by this one potential investigator who was apparently given a Book of Mormon. This lady answered acting all nice and told us that the guy we were looking for was a member in Greenville, Texas and that she went to church there also. We could tell she hadn't been in while so we told her, "You know, there's a church here in Denton if you'd like to come." She said, "Really? I haven't seen one! That might work a bit better because Greenville is an hour and a half away." I think she's right.

Once again, the very next day almost the exact same thing happened. This time it was the very first door we had knocked that day and this guy just opens the door and tells us to come in. Suddenly we were in this house with a bunch of people we didn't know but they somehow knew us. I was just trying to figure out what was going on for a bit but eventually we found out that they were members. Apparently they love the church and always defend it but they just haven't been for several years. Obviously, because there was no record of them in the ward. We were so confused and didn't even get their names.

The third set of 2s was a good one actually. Two days in a row we placed two copies of the Book of Mormon. One of them was named Elder. True story.

Besides all that, Tomi and Oyin are still doing well. We didn't get to teach Amy's boys this week and they weren't at church so that was a bit of a disappointment. Maybe this week! Amy did get a calling this week though. That was cool.

Talk to y'all next week!

-Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Saturday, September 10, 2016

August 29, 2016

Dear Family,

It's hard to believe that as of this Thursday I'll have been in Texas for an entire year! And what a year it's been: pet kangaroos, investigators running away, investigators almost killing each other, investigators running away again, investigators almost killing us... Oh, and Joe, Chris, and Amy getting baptized. It just goes on and on! Last night I was looking at a photo of my MTC district from exactly a year ago and we all look so green! Our shirts are still perfectly white, our faces have the greenie fire look, and we have no idea what's coming. It's been good though. I'm sure we've all experienced things that have changed us for the better with more to come of course.

Well, enough of the cheesy retrospect. This week was quite eventful actually. We got a couple more Bible referrals which we contacted on Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday was our first zone conference with President Whitney which was a bit of a weird concept at first. It was done a little differently but turned out to be pretty spiritual anyway. I think what I got most out of it was that we should be teaching members more so that we can give them the spiritual experiences they need to share the Gospel. We had a meeting with all our ward councils and the stake president afterward. The stake president shared something that was pretty interesting. He said, "Sometimes people aren't ready for the meat of the Gospel (the doctrine of Christ) so they need an appetizer (the fruit of Gospel)." As missionaries, all we have to offer is the meat so it's the members responsibility to share the fruit, or the blessings that the gospel has brought them. Here's how:
-use gospel language in everyday conversation; spark interest.
-talk about the fruits of the gospel (what it does for you and what it can do for them)
-go where the non-members are. Community events, boards, etc.
-ask them to serve with you
-if religion comes up, ask them what questions they have about God and religion

Apparently only 9% of people on average become interested in the church because of the doctrine so it's stuff like this that leads to the other 91%. Our stake president also said he believes that much of the success had as far as baptisms is due to the efforts of those who don't see the success. So, even if the person you're working with doesn't ever accept the Gospel, your efforts lead to others accepting it. I'm pretty confident in that too because the work here in Denton is moving faster than I could ever make it.

Saturday was also pretty awesome, though pretty exhausting. We started the day by helping a lady in the ward move to another apartment within her complex. About six or seven others were helping but there was so much stuff to move that we ended up being there 4.5 hours. They weren't even done then. Some stuff wasn't packed and there weren't enough boxes for it anyway so we just kinda threw it in trash bags and called it good. It was worth it though because Amy came to help for a bit so we got to do some service with her.

She's so willing to serve and wants so badly for her sons to have what she now has. We were able to teach them shortly after the move. It's amazing to me how she's already beginning to teach her children the Gospel. They both came to church yesterday too which was great. They were a bit shy but hopefully they'll open up about what they're feeling so we can not only set a baptismal date with them, but have them set it with confidence. Tomi and Oyin are also progressing well towards their baptism on Sept. 17th. There's not a whole lot else to tell you there.

Wow, that looks like a long email... Oh well, hope you enjoy it!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

August 22, 2016

Hello Family!

It's been a pretty great week. For one, it finally cooled down a bit into the 80s and we actually got some rain. It's super weird for Texas in the summer but I'm not going to complain. It's nice to not feel like an ice cream cone in Hades all day.

Anyway, the work has been going well too of course. We set a date with Tomi and Oyin for September 17th like we were hoping and had another Sister in the ward tell us that she wants her 11 year old daughter baptized. She's only here every second weekend so it'll be a couple months but again, I'm not complaining! We also had a few good contacts this week that will hopefully become new investigators. One of them--an older lady--tried to give us $40 for a Book of Mormon. It was tempting... We said no however. She then told us "Well, you're obviously not [insert her current church membership] if you don't take money!" She said it, not us!

Most importantly, Amy got baptized this week! I was getting nervous and stressed about all the logistics but it turned out great and went forward without any setbacks. That is not normal. I was asked to give the talk on the Holy Ghost and when I got up there all I had was a few points and some scriptures but the spirit just totally took over. I still worry a bit when I don't have everything written out but faith precedes the miracle as they say. Amy had no preferences about who should confirm her so I half volunteered, half was told to do it during ward council. Apparently Amy rethought about it and wanted me to do it anyway, so that worked out. That was a neat experience and definitely a first for me. Again, the spirit just takes over and you start saying things that you never even considered before. You can probably tell that I learned a ton about the Holy Ghost this weekend. It's not too often you get to speak by the Holy Ghost on the Gift of the Holy Ghost and then give somebody the Gift of the Holy Ghost, blessing them by the Holy Ghost.

That's been my week in a nutshell. Well, other than all the Bible referrals. Texans like free Bibles, especially after terrorist attacks and apparently at the beginning of the semester. Fun fact. Have a great week and remember to read your Book of Mormon because there's old ladies out there who would pay big money to have that opportunity!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

August 15, 2016

Dear Family,

As you might expect, it was another crazy week. Getting a new missionary is always a little stressful. Actually, a lot. A lot stressful. Anyway, my new companion is Elder Cockrell from Salmon, Idaho. He was pretty quiet at first but seems to be more talkative now.

We've already had some pretty crazy times together. On Saturday we started the day by vacuuming up cat hair for a less-active then discovered a flat tire. Yep, third area in a row where I've gotten a screw or nail in a tire. As a side note, Saginaw just got sisters so that may turn into another streak. Back to the tire though. Obviously I'm well acquainted with this process so I immediately called the vehicle coordinator and headed to Firestone. We then got lunch down the street, came back, and drove to the church just in time for Amy's baptismal interview. Time worked like magic! She passed, by the way.
Not that I doubted it because she's awesome.

That same day we taught Tomi and Oyin about the Plan of Salvation at our ward mission leader's house. Let me tell you, getting that set up was an adventure and a half. The lesson went well though. This week we're hoping to reset a baptism date with them for September 17th.

I'm now realizing that not a whole lot actually happened that is worth talking about. It still felt like a crazy week though.

I did have some interesting studies this week. I finished the Book of Mormon recently so I've been studying the New Testament alongside the institute manual. This week I was mostly reading about Christ's last instruction to the Apostles before and after he enters Jerusalem.

In Matthew 16:20, after giving the keys of the kingdom to them, Christ tells the Apostles to "tell no man that he [is] Jesus the Christ" which I found a little ironic at first. That's exactly their job right? In the institute manual it explains that the more people were told that Jesus was the Christ the more they would want to kill Him. The time wasn't right for that yet so that's why the Apostles were instructed not to tell anyone. That's also the reason Christ didn't go into Jerusalem until near the end of His life; He knew the people would be angry with Him and His teachings to the point that it would take hardly any time at all for them to crucify Him. Knowing this, Christ's entrance into Jerusalem in Matthew 21 becomes super profound and powerful.

I think we're all familiar with the story, He rides in on a donkey and all the people lay their garments and tree branches before him. This of course was done to show His royalty. What comes next blew my mind though. As Christ entered, the people "cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest." Hosanna means "save us" or "save now." The people plead for safety from sin and affliction at the exact moment Christ was being lead into the city where He knew he would have to perform the single act that could provide that for them. Definitely worth a read.

Take care this week and try not to get any screws or nails in your tires!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Friday, August 19, 2016

August 8, 2016

Dear Family,

It's been a crazy week to say the least. Monday was pretty normal but then Tuesday! Oh my... Tuesday! So, Elder Parkinson had his exit interview that day and I thought, "Well, if President Whitney has anything to say to me about leadership he'll tell me then." Literally, I looked him straight in the eyes, shook his hand, and he didn't say anything... Then he called at 10:00pm to tell me I'm training again. I then asked him if the district leader area would be changing since this has been it for the last few transfers. Basically I was asking if I'd be district leader too. He replied, "Ya know Elder. I don't know. It's not on my list and I only know what's on my list!"

On Thursday we drove down to Hurst to the new trainer meeting. Texas traffic in the morning is always an adventure so that was fun. I asked the assistants if they were changing the district leader area at the meeting and they said yes so that was a relief. I also discovered that Elder Brinkerhoff and Elder Andreason from my MTC district are training for the second time as well. President Whitney must've felt like we needed a mid-mission boost to purge the trunky out of us. Probably true.

After the meeting we drove back to Denton and had to almost immediately leave to Decatur for a baptismal interview. I hadn't eaten much up to that point because 1. I didn't have the appetite in the morning and 2. I didn't have time in the afternoon. The sisters were kind enough to provide me with a brownie and a granola bar out of pity. We then went to dinner and taught some recent converts afterward. Then, ya know, crashed in bed.

Friday of course was the day y'all were excited for and that I didn't know what to think about. The thought might've crossed your mind, "hey, wonder what that one other guy in the family is doing right now." Well, in the morning we were planning. About the time that Eric walked off the plane I was sitting in McDonalds with Elder Parkinson and one of his recent convert friends while they tried to dump all of Elder Parkinson's iPad photos onto a hard drive. That night when I saw the photos of everyone at the airport I'll admit I was probably the most trunky and homesick I've been my whole mission. Seriously it felt like having to leave my family all over again and start a whole new mission except the decision was ten times harder because I actually know what a mission is like. I kind of started to think why am I here? Why am I here doing things that are so difficult when I could be back home with my family? It's a good question really. I decided that night that I'm here because I love God and I trust Him. Plus, from what I've heard this week, coming home seems pretty anti-climatic.

Saturday was pretty good. We taught Amy about the temple and she's super excited to go when she can. At first she said it seemed pretty ominous that you can only go if you're worthy and stuff. The last few weeks though she's realized how sacred the temple really is and now has made it her goal to prepare for the temple. She's exactly where she needs to be spiritually right now. It's awesome!

Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

August 1, 2016

Dearest Family,

Where to start... Well, as of yesterday we had 8 potential baptisms for the next couple months with 3 dates set. As of right now, we have 5 potential baptisms and 2 dates set. The story is thus: Last Sunday a recent convert couple brought their 2 children, Tomi and Oyia, who just came from Nigeria to church and wanted them baptized as soon as possible. We taught both of them on Tuesday and set a date with them for August 13th. Only Tomi came to church on Sunday though so we're going to have to move Oyia's date. Tomi still technically has a date so he's one of the two.

On Wednesday the bishop in 2nd Ward introduced us to a lady who wanted the lessons immediately. Apparently she went to some health initiative conference where 75% of people were LDS women. Long story short, she had some really good experiences with them and they convinced her to read the Book of Mormon and seek out the missionaries. She found Bishop before us and he invited her 2 daughters to come to mutual that night. We taught her the next day and it went really well. The whole time she was super sincere and believed everything we said about the apostasy. She said she wanted to join the church so we planned to set a date with her and her children on Saturday during our next appointment. On Saturday she cancelled on us because she had to take her kids to see her husband who she's in the process of divorcing. She told us she would try to be at church though. That didn't happen either. At about 11:30 this morning she texted us and said basically, "Me and the kids' father decided that Mormon beliefs are not our beliefs. We disagree on some core beliefs about the trinity." We tried to get her to meet with us one more time so we could help her remember what she felt but she hasn't answered us. That's where we're at right now. Hopefully I'll have an update next week. One thing we know she can't escape is contact with all those LDS women her brought her to us in the first place. Anyway, there went 3 golden investigators.

The good news for the week is that Amy is still doing well. A member in the ward invited us and her family over for dinner and a lesson. It went awesome and we finally got to meet her two sons. Amy wants them to at least learn about the church so they can decide for themselves if they want to be baptized. I suspect they'll get there soon. They have your regular ol' preteen concerns like "fasting is too hard" but that's about it. Amy's family is pretty much a member family already: a parent who loves the gospel trying to get her kids to at least give the church a chance.

I was thinking about it this week and Amy will probably be going to the temple within weeks of my release date. So help me, if it's the Saturday after I'm not leaving! Seriously though, it's been something that's been on my mind. A big boom in the exact middle of your mission is a blessing and a curse. Mostly a blessing but you know...

So, yeah, fun week. I'm not even going to wish y'all a good week because I know it will be. Do me a favor and bring a picture of me or something when you pick Eric up from the airport. Also, don't get too trunky for me, I'll join the party soon enough! Just pray for me on Friday because I'll be thinking of you! Talk to you next week.

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

July 25, 2016

Hello Family!

We actually had a relatively good week. Things are finally picking up it the area. I almost forgot what it felt like to have a teaching pool but it's finally happened. Woohoo! We met a couple people this week that are at least semi-interested and are willing to meet with us consistently. That does not include the referral whose door I knocked on from last week unfortunately. That one said she has no interest and that her friend who referred her is a "bit of an extremist." Oh well! Immediately after that we contacted a former investigator named Martha who was dropped because she was apparently difficult to contact. We contacted her first try though so long story short, she's an investigator now.

Things went super well with Amy again this week. It's going almost too well so we're kinda holding our breath right now. Anyway, we invited her to a stake fireside last night. President Whitney and a couple other converts spoke at it and Amy seemed to really enjoy it. I did too, so I knew she would. Afterwards, she texted us and said basically, "I just wanted to thank you for inviting me to that meeting tonight. You're changing my life with your time and service. Thank you." That's definitely what I needed so I was grateful for that.

Well, we have some great plans and high goals for this week so I'm excited to see what can be accomplished. Wish me luck!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

July 18, 2016

Hello Family!

My week was mostly uninteresting but there were at least a couple things worth mentioning. First of all we set a baptismal date with Amy for August 20th which was awesome! She practically interrupted me to say yes so I think she meant it. Sometimes you can't be sure. We talked about getting her sons baptized too and she said she'd like them to but that it's ultimately their decision. They also have to get permission from their father which is kind of up in the air right now. Him and Amy are divorced but they have a good relationship and he's not opposed to the church or anything. If nothing else Amy will go to the temple and get her parents baptized! She's already looking forward
to it. Needless to say, it was an awesome lesson and we're pretty excited.

We also had interviews with President Whitney this week. That was a little weird without President Ames. Basically he just asked the typical get to know you questions and said, "Well, you've been in the mission longer than me so what do our missionaries need to be trained on to become successful?" It was supposed to take 20 minutes but it only took maybe 10 for me. Neither of us are really talkative... Oh well!

That same day we tried by a few potentials and decided to knock on a few of their neighbors' doors. Absolutely nobody answered but funny enough, we got a referral for one of those neighbors three days later. Should've been home the first time! Anyway, it'll be interesting to see what comes from this one.

I swear, every week as a missionary is a weird mix of mundane tasks and "wait, what just happened?" moments. Here's to another one! Wish me luck!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Friday, July 15, 2016

July 11, 2016

Dear Family,

It's been yet another hot week. I am in Texas though, so I guess that's to be expected. We've mostly been doing some tracting and street contacting lately so I've been spending a lot of time outside which gets a little rough. Right now we're just trying to figure out where to find people between the hours of 10:00am and 5:00pm. It's mostly been trial and error as far as that goes but I'm trying to keep a positive attitude.

It's been really weird lately having a companion and a brother who are going home so soon. On top of that, I'm almost at my year mark so I've been looking back a lot on the last year. I'm not really getting trunky or anything, it's just weird and hard to believe it's been so long. I thought I'd know what I was doing by now but nope. Someday! Probably in the afterlife, but someday!

Even though most of the week was spent in the hot sun, it ended really well with another couple lesson with Amy. I am still convinced that she has been completely prepared for baptism through her experiences. Things are just falling into place and it's crazy. Every member she meets has some experience very similar to her own that just solidifies her desire to come to church. She was actually able to this week by the way! As we taught the apostasy the weather even went nasty as if to enhance the effect. It was awesome! Unfortunately the member couple that was with us had to leave quite abruptly due to the storm so we didn't get a chance to invite her to baptism. From yesterday it sounds
like she's planning on having us teach her two sons though, so we could easily have three baptisms by the end of summer.

We still haven't taught or seen Willie or Bob since I talked about them last so that's a little frustrating. Hopefully stuff gets rolling this week. I'll let ya'll know, but for now have a fantastic week!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Friday, July 8, 2016

July 4, 2016

Dear Family,

Happy 4th of July and belated Canada Day! We just got done walking in the Big Parade in Denton with the rest of the zone and the Spanish Ward who put the float together. It was a little awkward being Canadian and all but I wasn't the only one. There's a Sister from Vancouver who came out with me last August so we were awkward Canadians together.

On Canada Day we got to celebrate by meeting our new mission president. We had a big meeting with a couple of other zones where he introduced himself, shook our hands, and shared a few thoughts. President Whitney and his wife are definitely a lot more soft-spoken than President and Sister Ames which is an adjustment. I'm sure both of them are still trying to get used to the whole leading a mission thing. I'm really hoping we as a mission can have some super spiritual experiences with them so they can trust  and love us a little more and we can do the same. I think for the most part the rest of mission feels about the same. We miss President Ames but we feel like the best way we can honor him is by loving President Whitney.

After the meeting we had lunch at the apartment and got a call from a random foreign number. Elder Parkinson answered it and apparently it was some British evangelist who somehow got our number. Elder Parkinson bashed with him for a while until finally he asked, "Can I ask how you got our number?" In response, this guy said he'd tell us if we revealed some very sacred things we learn in the temple... Well, I'm sure glad I can count on grown adults to be mature in this world! You kind of have to wonder why somebody took the time to call two young missionaries in North Texas if what they're saying doesn't have some truth to it that Satan doesn't want being spread.

That's alright though, because I'm pretty sure we found a golden investigator this week! Well, she was a referral from a guy in Keller so WE didn't find her but you know, close enough. She's a single mother who recently lost her own mother. Her friend gave her a Book of Mormon about a month ago and she's read until about the middle of 2 Nephi. She told us, "I've been struggling to hear my mother's voice since she passed, but when I started reading the Book of Mormon I heard it." Can't get much more sincere than that! To me it's just so amazing to hear a testimony like that from someone so unbiased that's just looking for truth. Definitely made my week.

Hope you have an awesome day and such. Take care!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

June 27, 2016

Dear Family,

Well, it's transfers this week and for the first time I was actually surprised. I'm staying here luckily, but Elder Reich is leaving! We were sure we'd stay together! This is my third one 'n done with a companion in a row and my seventh with a district leader. That's not changing next transfer either because my new companion, Elder Parkinson, is going home at the end of the transfer. Also, apparently in the next couple transfers we're getting about 40 new missionaries total which means that a quarter of the mission will be training. It could be me... Again... I guess we'll see!

As far as the work goes, this week most of our plans fell through again, but we made the most of it. W and B have had a lot of trouble making time to meet with us lately so we haven't taught either of them in a couple of weeks. Hopefully Elder Reich leaving will inspire them to make a little more of an effort tomorrow. As soon as we get in there we're setting some baptism dates! Hopefully.

The most interesting thing that happened this week was when we got bashed. It was the first time I've been told the church is a cult by people who aren't  drunk. I really don't have much to say about it though, just that the Book of Mormon is true! Every time someone tries to convince me it isn't it just confirms it to me more. Muahahahaha!

Whelp, wish me luck this week with my new companion AND mission president. Have a wonderful week full of happiness and unicorns! Which reminds me, there's this street nearby named Unicorn Lake. Fun fact.

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

June 20, 2016

Dear Family,

Things went pretty well this week. I guess you could say things are heating up a bit in the area! But seriously, it was hot this week. It made the work a little slow because nobody left their houses all week except to go swimming. Not exactly conducive to missionary work.

We made some really good progress with W this week though. Unfortunately his family won't let us in his apartment so we had to teach him outside in the blazing heat. We just sat there on the little
porch in front of the door, sweatin' up a storm. That was an experience! Totally worth it though because he's completely sincere and can probably be baptized this summer. Our only concern is that he doesn't really understand the purpose of baptism and he has a hard time staying focused. It may take a little longer to teach him but he'll get there.

We weren't able to teach B a whole lot this week unfortunately, just a quick stop by. That's an interesting story actually. We were driving around his apartment complex trying to find parking and had driven around a couple times before we finally parked. Elder Reich kept driving past the open ones without realizing it. As we were walking to the apartment, B and his wife drove up! If we had parked quickly and knocked we probably would've left before they got there.

We had another experience kind of like that yesterday. We were in yet another apartment complex and were looking for a referral. Her apartment was right next to where we parked but we didn't realize it so we walked around the entire complex. About halfway around this lady waved and said hi to us (she was walking the other direction) but for some reason we didn't stop to talk to her. Right before we found the referral's apartment, the lady walked past again and said, "Hey, do you have brochures or anything for people?" Uh, yeah we do! So, yeah, we gave her a restoration pamphlet and a Book of Mormon. Those moments are always awesome.

So, that was my week. I hope life stays awesome for y'all up there in the north where the sun isn't trying to kill you!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Saturday, June 25, 2016

June 13, 2016

Dear family,

It's been yet another fun week in Texas. The weather has been weird as usual. This morning I was wearing my glasses because my eyes were bothering me and every time I got out of our car they fogged up from the humidity! You just can't win here. Other than that, the storms have been coming in waves. Sporadic. And powerful. Waves. No rivers behind the apartment though.

I can't remember if I mentioned this, but this week was President Ames' final Zone Conference in the mission. It was super spiritual as expected and he even left us with the advice he usually gives the
departing missionaries. Immediately before dinner we were talking about kneeling prayers during lessons and President Ames explained why we're asked to do them. It's hard to describe over email so I'm not even going to try. Suffice it to say that everyone in the room was probably thinking, "Wow, who's the guy who has to follow that up with a blessing on the food?!" It was me of course so I walked up to the front, looked at everyone for a couple seconds until they knelt down on the gym floor, knelt down myself, and poured my heart out. I didn't even get a word out before I started crying. It was one of those prayers where I knew for a fact that my Heavenly Father was listening. Easily one of the most spiritual experiences of my mission.

The rest of the conference mostly had to do with helping people understand the importance of church, prayer, and reading the Book of Mormon. I left there totally motivated to hand a Book of Mormon to
every Texan I saw. Unfortunately Elder Reich was sick the next day so we couldn't do a whole lot of that. I did read quite a bit of the Book of Mormon though! That itself was a spiritual experience.  The day after that Elder Reich was doing a lot better so we finally got to place a copy.

I suppose you might want to know how our investigator is doing so I'll tell you briefly. We had a lesson with him on Tuesday about the plan of salvation and asked him what he thought about baptism. He said he hadn't thought about it so we committed him to pray about being baptized. This week we're hoping to set a date with him. He's super sincere and keeps his reading commitments so it's looking likely. I let y'all know how it goes but for now I hope you have a fantastic week!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Saturday, June 18, 2016

June 6, 2016

Dear Family,

Sounds like everyone's had a good week. I can't complain about mine either; things keep improving slowly in the area. This week we were finally able to meet with one of our investigators. He's probably our most progressing investigator but the last couple weeks he's been busy. In our lesson we just read and discussed 3 Nephi 11. It's one of my favorites. He seemed to enjoy it and agreed with everything but unfortunately we haven't committed him to baptism yet. Hopefully we'll do that tomorrow.

This week I also got to go on exchange with Elder Simmons. Originally I was supposed to go with his companion, Elder Farr, in their area but they changed it last minute. That also meant that I had to take over my area for the day with almost no preparation. It went alright though and it was cool to be back with my trainer. We basically picked up right where we left off. Him and Elder Farr gave us some good ideas for the area too so we've got some good things in the works.

Well, take care this week! Sorry for the late and short email, I went turtle hunting with no success... Bye!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

May 30, 2016

Hello Family!

It's been another fun week in Denton. I'm finally starting to get to know people here even though it's a little more difficult with two wards. We mostly focused on contacting referrals this week since they tend to pile up for some reason. Texans like free Bibles, I'll tell you that much. We had a couple successes though and even got one lady to accept a Book of Mormon as well. Usually they're not so much into that part. 

Besides that we've just been doing a lot of moves it seems like. Two out of three were for people outside of the church so it was definitely a good change from tracting. One of them was in our apartment complex so we just went over there and asked if they needed help. At first the guy instinctively said they were alright but then we were basically like, "You know we're serious right?" and he said we could help with the couch. We gave them our contact info and everything so we'll see what happens in the future.

Elder Reich and I are still getting along well; sometimes a little too well honestly. Last night it rained a ton and we had a massive pond behind the apartment so we decided to get our flip-flops on and walk in it. In case you were wondering it came up to about mid calf. That's after about an hour of rain. By this morning it was completely gone though. Oh Texas!

That's all I've got for this week. Have an awesome day!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Saturday, June 11, 2016

May 23, 2016

Hello family!

It's been a pretty good week here in Texas. I can officially confirm that I do indeed live directly on a golf course. As in, I have to walk past one of the holes to get to the main office. One of Elder Reich's favorite pastimes is collecting the golf balls that end up on our side of the fence. He has quite a few.

Let me tell you about my last few days in Saginaw though, then I'll get back to Denton. So, Tuesday we had yet another zone service project of cleaning up someone's yard. A lady drove by during the last one and asked our zone leaders if we could do the same thing at her house so we did. The awesome part is that this lady is a total nature/animal guru and owned three lemurs, two tortoises, and about a dozen cats. It. Was. Awesome. We got to watch the tortoises eat and everything! Once again, the lady was really appreciative and it was an awesome experience to end the transfer. 

That night we just contacted potential investigators for a while. One of them actually called the cops on us for talking to his kid who was playing in the front yard. He wasn't the guy we were looking for anyway. In order to spare a certain companion's dignity I won't tell the whole story. Suffice it to say that said companion learned something valuable that day and that no missionaries were taken into custody. 

Transfers were a little stressful as usual but I was excited. My ride to Denton from the Stake Center was also taking a new missionary and his trainer so I had to wait around for the new missionary meeting to end. That also meant that I had to hang out with all the departing missionaries for over an hour. I could almost smell the trunkiness. Anyway, so when the meeting finally ended, out walks this guy who I went to EFY with in 2012. He was the new missionary I was waiting for! Fun fact. On the way back he commented on how many trees there were in Texas which was hilarious because that's really only a Denton thing. His trainer and I looked at each other like, "Don't say a word. Let him figure out how ugly Texas is for himself." 

Besides seeing someone from EFY, I also found out that my trainer, Elder Simmons, is one of my new Zone Leaders. It's awesome but super weird because I've now been out twice as long as he had when he started training me. 

I'm loving my area too! Things aren't booming quite as much as the rest of Denton (another companionship had 23 more lessons than us) but there's a ton of potential. Elder Reich is awesome and hilarious so we've been getting along super well. I'm excited for this transfer, it'll be good!

Well, everyone's waiting for me so I better go. Love you, have a good week!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

May 16, 2016

Hello Family!

Well, first off I was able to go to the temple on Tuesday so that was awesome. We barely made it though because we had to leave at 5:45am and my alarm didn't go off. It took another set of Elders walking in at 5:55 to get us up but we hurried and made it out the door just in time. It was good to go again and we even saw some Dallas missionaries there! I asked if they knew an Elder Barr and they said yes but that he was on the opposite end of the mission.

The rest of the week was a little slower than I would have liked it to be but oh well. We did our best. I was really praying for some kind of change this transfer because I just need a restart. I've especially
been wanting to go to Denton since the beginning of my mission for a couple reasons. One, Elder Martino of the Seventy is from there and said it was awesome when he was at our stake conference in Lethbridge. Two, because the rumor in the mission is that it's the promised land. So, you might have guessed by now, but prayers truly are answered and I'm going to Denton this transfer. I'll be covering both the Denton 2nd and 5th wards and my new companion will be Elder Reich who I know nothing about. It's a car area too so I'll most likely be spending the entire first half of my mission in a car. I'm super excited!  It seems like I just get whatever I want as far as areas and companions. I usually change my mind later but hey.

Well, once again, I hope your week is awesome! Wish me luck in Denton!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

P.S. My new address is:
5001 Par Dr. #3625
Denton, TX 76208

And yes, it's apparently on a golf course

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

May 9, 2016

Hello family!

Well, it was awesome talking to everyone yesterday but I don't have much to say since then. We did a have a good lesson with Big Momma that I didn't mention though. We taught her about baptism and started out by sharing a quote from Elder Anderson's last conference talk "Always Retain a Remission of Your Sins." It prompted a good discussion and we were able to understand her concerns a little better. I feel like if we keep working with her she can be baptized by the end of the year. We definitely made some progress with her.

I also briefly mentioned the family history training yesterday. The purpose of it was to help us know how to better contact with a Family History approach. It's something I'll definitely consider using, especially if they're older and less open to the message of the restoration. Most of the younger people around our age are honestly more interested in the Book of Mormon though. We just have to follow the spirit I guess.
The spirit is definitely trying to teach me to have more hope. Just like Peter I need to stop focusing so much on the waves and my own inadequacies and trust that the Lord will keep his promises. I feel like I'm improving though. Last night as I was praying, instead of thanking Heavenly Father for the covenants I'VE made like usual, I thanked him for the covenants WE'VE made with each other. I didn't even really realize what I'd said until after I'd said it but it taught me to remember that it's not just my covenant. From now on I'm going to remember the promises God has made to me more.

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Saturday, May 14, 2016

May 2, 2016

Dear Family,

I don't have a whole lot to say this week unfortunately. We mostly contacted potential investigators and stuff because appointments kept falling through. We got a couple return appointments so that's good. Nothing notable happened in the area other than that really.

Your funny story for this week comes from the memory care center as usual. We were making wreaths with them and there were two ladies that are pretty non-coherent and seated next to each other. Both of them are known for laughing hysterically. Next to them was the lady who says crazy sentences like "that biscuit's on that biscuit," so for a couple hours we got random commentary from her while the other two laughed hysterically at whatever she said. It was like a sitcom except funnier. It was one of those times when I wish ya'll could just get a live stream of my life for an hour. The other one was salad guy.

I honestly can't think of anything else I want to write so I guess I'll just talk on Sunday! See ya then!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Saturday, April 30, 2016

April 25, 2016

Hello family!

It was a pretty typical week here in Saginaw. Unfortunately the only news I really have is pretty sad. We went by our committed investigators without their fellowshippers on Tuesday to show them that we actually care about them and that we aren't just random teenagers that teach them. It seemed to go alright and we set up an appointment for Thursday right there so we thought everything was back on track for Sara's April 30th baptism. Unfortunately on Thursday she told her fellowshippers that she doesn't feel like she can keep all the commitments we leave and that she wants us to back off a little. So, we weren't able to meet that night and her baptism date is now dropped.

It was really disappointing for me but I sensed something was wrong a week ago, it just surfaced on Thursday. Honestly right now I'm just doing my best to keep my spirits up after having all our dates from last transfer dropped within 2.5 weeks. I know it's not my fault but it's still hard for me. Right now we're hoping to meet with her soon so that we can explain that her frustration is normal and that it doesn't come from God. Really the only commitments she's not keeping are reading the Book of Mormon and praying. We told our Bishop that and he said, "Great, she's an LDS youth already!" True statement. I'll let ya'll know what happens though.

I know my Heavenly Father loves me though because church was wonderful yesterday. We didn't have any of the investigators we expected but Big Momma came! She has been investigating for 6 years but she's finally reaching out more. I think I wrote about her my first week here. She was really humbled yesterday so we're going to take this opportunity and hopefully invite her to baptism this week. The rest of church, especially sacrament meeting, was awesome too. I felt the spirit stronger than I had at church in a while. I know that was an answer to my prayers.

I hope I haven't sounded too negative the last couple weeks. I really am enjoying my mission and  there's no place I'd rather be than Fort Worth, Texas right now. It's a weird sort of enjoyment where I'm constantly being disappointed but I'm learning a ton at the same time. I better go though. Talk to you next week!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Saturday, April 23, 2016

April 18, 2016 - Saginaw, Texax

Dear Family,

Like most, this week had its ups and downs. We had interviews with President Ames again this week which is always awesome. In mine he mostly helped me to see myself more as God sees me. He always tells me Satan doesn't have to get me to sin to harm me, he just has to discourage me.

One thing I thought about a lot afterwards was the way I've always thought of the Atonement. I realized that I've always seen that its necessity as making me less of a person in a way. I've always thought, "I'm nothing without the Atonement" and focused on the "I'm nothing" part. This week I learned that God never meant for us to be nothing; that's why he planned for the Atonement from the beginning. It never has or ever will matter that we're nothing without it as long as we use it. Basically, we should focus on the way things are because of the Atonement and not the way they could've been without it.

Unfortunately it seems like the adversary has really been trying to bring me down since interviews and it seems to be through our investigators. On Thursday one investigator told us that she's not sure she wants to be baptized anymore. We did our best to help her resolve concerns and understand the purpose of what we teach. She was willing to keep learning more and recognized that she hasn't experienced all the church has to offer yet. Hopefully that turns into something more soon.

Yesterday was Stake Conference and our most progressing investigator sang in the choir with her friend. That was pretty awesome. We had a lesson set up later that night so we thought we could discuss her thoughts then but she ended up cancelling. It might have been because of her mother, but either way we didn't get to meet with her. First of all, now we're panicking because her baptism is April 30th and we'll have to move it unless she starts meeting with us more. On top of that, their main fellow-shippers told us that they're worried her mom and her may not realize we actually care about them and that we're not just random teenagers a friend brings over. I feel like that might be true which is pretty painful for me. I honestly care about all my investigators a ton; it's just difficult for me to show it. We talked about some pretty simple solutions so we'll see how it goes. 

It's a lot to take in but I suppose it could be a lot worse. I'm pretty sure she will get baptized before the end of the transfer. I don't want to make her feel like a failure if it's not the 30th though. 

That's your peek into my life for this week! Have a wonderful Monday!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Saturday, April 16, 2016

April 11, 2016 - Saginaw, Texas

                 District Community Project

Dear Family,

Life was pretty busy with transfers this week. Tuesday we did some service and basically ran errands the rest of the day. Elder Cherry from our district was going home and was in a bike area so he needed us to take him around for some last minute things. He was the older brother figure of the district so it was tough to see him leave. It's funny, watching him go home was almost exactly like watching someone leave for their mission.

It was tough to see Elder Wade go too, especially after only one transfer. I didn't realize how hilarious he was until he was gone. That seems to happen a lot. It's always really tough to get a new companion in an area because you're so used to how your previous companion does things and how they act. I've been doing alright though, Elder Law is pretty cool. I had to take lead a little more this week because he's new to the area, new to the district, and still pretty new to the mission. I learned a lot from being a district leader's companion last transfer so I'm trying to pass that on as much as possible.

Basically as soon as Elder Law was unpacked we jumped right into it and went to District Leadership Council to plan for Zone Council the next day. Zone Council is basically a district meeting for the whole zone.

On Friday we did a massive service project as a zone through a community event that was going on. Basically, a bunch of people came together to restore people's yards and houses and were split into
groups to work on a specific house. Our zone made up one group so it was just us and a supervisor from the charity sponsoring the project. We mostly did painting, laying stone, and pulling weeds. It was awesome because so much of the zone was new but we got to know each other almost right away. Half the people were saying, "Elder O'Brien, I've never heard you talk this much before!" Apparently I'm pretty funny sometimes. All I said was stuff like, "yeah, you totally brought the property value down with that smudge." I suppose that kinda stuff cheers people up somehow. Who would've thought?

Anyway, the lady who owned the house was super emotional and grateful at the end. She shared 1 Peter 4:10 with us and then we said a prayer. It was super awesome. I'll send a picture of the zone and her later. She also had a small dog named Rusty. He was cool. Overall probably one of my favorite experiences since I came to Saginaw.

Well, take care and don't smudge any bricks with paint this week! Not that there's many brick houses around there... Bye!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

April 3, 2016 - Saginaw, Texas

 Conference Breakfast 
at a member's house

Dear Family,

Hope your conference weekend was awesome. Sounds like you liked basically all the same talks I did. Elder Bednar's talk, "Always Retain a Remission of Your Sins" was definitely one of my favorites, especially being a missionary. He just taught baptism and the Holy Ghost so simply and it made me wish I could teach like that. It's one of those talks I'll be studying a lot the next few months. Another talk that I really enjoyed was Sister Oscarson's. She talked about asking ourselves, "Do I really believe?" and how we need to get the gospel from our minds into our hearts. I think missions really make you ask yourself that. For me it's not so much in the "Why do I believe these crazy things?" sense but it's more like, "I'm out here telling people that there is a living prophet on the earth and that the Gospel of Jesus Christ can have real, tangible consequences now and into the eternities. What does that really mean to me and why aren't I the happiest, most fearless person in the world because I believe these things?" Those moments when I really ask myself that teach me more than a hundred personal studies. 

I've thought about that a lot this week, how there's those experiences we all have that become like our own personal scripture stories that can be applied to almost anything. Ayla's passing is one of those stories for me. It's not too often that I feel inspired to share that story with people but when I do, it always seems to be for a different reason. 

You're probably wondering about transfers so I'll get to that. First of all, I'm also going to be out a week longer because of the MTC change and the 7 week transfer. Turn back the countdowns! Second, I'm staying in Saginaw (yay!) and Elder Wade is going to Waco as a Zone Leader. It's funny because last week Elder Wade said he felt strongly that one of us was going to get a leadership call and told me that if President Ames called he wanted to answer because it's always the other person who the call is actually for. So, about 10:10pm on Monday night we think we're safe for the night. THEN, I thought, "Hey, I should check the phone one more time before bed," because it was in the other room. President Ames had called probably seconds before so I answered and he asked for Elder Wade. Should've checked the phone before me Elder Wade! HAHAHA! ahem... So, yeah. 

My new companion will be Elder Law. He's been out for six months and is coming from his first area. I don't really know him well but his trainer and his trainer's trainer have both been my district leader before so I've heard of him. 

Well, my time is up so I'll talk to you next week. Buhbye!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Saturday, April 9, 2016

March 28, 2016 - Saginaw, Texas

Dear Family,

Well, for your weekly weather update, we almost had a tornado again. It's funny because back home if there's a tornado an hour away everyone is saying, "Wow! It was so close, we could've died!" Down here they're saying, "It's pretty far away, we should be good." Some people were freaking out still, so I guess it's 50/50. You'll be glad to know we get better and better at dealing with tornado sirens every week. This time we felt it was serious enough to warrant a trip to the church building for shelter before it got too bad. Nothing happened in this area though! No worries!

Other than that our week wasn't all that interesting. We had 3 investigators at church though! Texans tend to feel guilty if they don't come on Easter so that worked in our favor. Sara's mom was one of those there and she said she enjoyed it and wants to come back. That was good to hear. I'm scared to say this because I'll probably leave for it, but I really want to stay in Saginaw next transfer to see this all through! 

The rest of Easter was pretty awesome too. It was super spiritual and I certainly appreciated the package as well. The whole district got more candy than we can handle so we're essentially living the law of consecration as far as that goes. I may go into a candy coma later this week but I'll let you know. 

Sounds like Easter was fun back in little ol' Stirling. I'm excited for Katie and Mathew so congrats to them. While ya'll were doing that I was on exchange with Elder Walkling riding a bike every which way in Park Glen 1st and 2nd. He planned a "not so bad" day of biking that turned into an "oops, I think we literally biked a marathon" day of biking. Stairs have been rough since then. I hope your thoughts are with me...

Well, I have to go, but I hope you have an awesome week! Wish me luck with transfers!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Friday, April 1, 2016

March 21, 2016 - Saginaw, Texas

Dear Family,

It wasn't quite as stormy this week but there were still some storms. The tornado sirens went off again on Thursday which was confusing because it was completely calm outside. Turns out there was a tornado around South Fort Worth--my old zone. The Spanish Sisters there apparently had something fling off their roof onto their car. But yeah, we didn't have any more than a light sprinkling here.

Thursday was really the only other interesting day this week. We had a lesson scheduled with Sara who we started teaching my first week and is a referral from a laurel in the ward. Usually the laurel's father comes as the priesthood holder but he wasn't able to make it so we were trying all day to get another man to come along. We texted 7 or 8 people, all of which said no or just didn't answer. We told the laurel's family we would have to cancel because of this and as soon as we said that they texted a priest we hadn't gotten a response from and got an answer! Thank you members!

We had planned on setting a baptismal date that lesson so we could see how Satan was trying to stop it. As we got ready for the lesson I really felt like I would have to be the one to set the date. The lesson went well and I did end up setting the date. She agreed to be baptized on April 30. It was cool because Elder Wade said he almost did it a few times but he just couldn't. The Lord decided to give me the experience I guess. It was my first time setting a baptismal date so I was pretty excited! The next day Sara and her friend went to the Hurst Stake Youth Conference and we found out later that President Ames was there to speak to all the youth. Afterwards, he apparently talked with Sara specifically. I have no idea what they talked about, but I thought that was awesome.

There's some awesome stuff going on in Saginaw right now and none of it has anything to do with Elder Wade or I!

Hope ya'll have a wonderful week and enjoy the spring!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Friday, March 18, 2016

March 14, 2016 - Saginaw, Texas

Dear Family,

I really need to stop saying stuff like, "Hey, it's starting to look like spring!" because something always happens. On Tuesday morning we're sitting there studying and watching the nice gentle rain outside when suddenly the wind picks up and we can barely see ten feet outside our window! We then start listening closely for tornado sirens and all we hear is the wind howling really loudly at consistent intervals. Meanwhile the rest of our district is sitting in their bathtubs quite aware that wind does not howl like that--it was indeed a tornado siren. You live and you learn I guess... I'm completely fine though, no worries! The worst this area got was a few bent signs and leaning fences. Oh, and the beautiful blossoms I mentioned last week, yeah, they're now covering the ground.

That was the first storm this week. The second one is more figurative and began on Saturday before Chris' baptism. The baptism was scheduled for 7pm and at about 6:10 we got a text from his mom saying, "I am Chris. I'm not coming because I'm not ready to be a Mormon." We texted back and asked to come over but he didn't respond so we started getting the word out that the baptism was cancelled. We waited about a half hour before we took everything down and drained the font. That sound when the font started draining was painful, I'm telling you! Not 5 minutes after the plug was pulled both literally and figuratively, Chris walked in. At that moment I just gave him one those "Wait... What?!" looks.Turns out he was super nervous and didn't feel ready but some members convinced him to come. We asked him firmly if he wanted to be baptized and he said yes so we got as many people back as possible and the baptism went on! I didn't even know what to feel afterwards. I don't have the pictures right now but I should be able to get them from Chris' mom this week.

So, another random fact. Last week I forgot to mention that I met a member in the Fossil Ridge ward that served in the Canada Calgary mission and finished in Stirling. His last name is McClure and he was one of the missionaries that got Mark Clayton baptized. Small world! He remembers staying with the Laquas and everything!

Also, tonight all my dreams are going to come true because the bishop's family is hosting a Pi Day party and we're invited! #Hallelujah! His wife said they're going to feed us pizza pie at 6, then dessert pie at 6:30 when everyone else (neighbors, ward members, etc.) come. I cannot even express how happy that makes me! It's one of those situations when your prayer is answered even though you didn't say it because it seemed like such a silly thing to pray for. The Lord truly knows how to succor His people! I've been feeling a little down lately so in all seriousness, it was an answer to my prayers. I think we sometimes forget that the Atonement is truly infinite and that Christ will make things happen to cheer us up, no matter how silly. I'll leave you with that thought and talk to you next week! Happy Pi Day!! 

Elder O'Brien (the younger)