Friday, February 26, 2016

February 15, 2016 - Following in Elder Simmons' Footsteps - Joshua, Texas

Hello Family!

You're probably wondering what's happening with transfers so I'll get to it. First of all we were waiting for a call all last Monday to see if either of us got leadership calls and nothing came. We assumed we were good until we got a call from the Assistants on Friday. They said, "So hey, you probably didn't get our message but Elder Balser, you're training and we need you at the leadership meeting that just started. How fast can ya'll get to Hurst?" Our barn-encircled apartment gets atrocious reception so somehow we missed 3 calls and a message from them. Long story short, we dropped everything, put our suits on, and started the hour drive to the Hurst stake center. We missed the first meeting but made it for the trainer-specific meeting. I just kinda sat in because I really had no other choice. Plus, I'm still technically training...

Fast forward to today. We got a call from the zone leaders this morning and they told me I'm going to be serving with Elder Wade in Saginaw (right above Fort Worth in the Hurst Stake.) The same exact place Elder Simmons was transferred to when he left Joshua! I can't help but laugh at that one. For some reason President Ames likes putting new missionaries in Joshua, having them train a new missionary, transferring them to Saginaw, then having their trainee train. All jokes aside, I'm excited to serve there and I'm definitely glad I get to be in a car at least another transfer. I'm also excited that Elder Balser gets to train in Joshua. Who would've thought that I'd be a "grandpa" after only six months in the mission? I'm really hoping we can get a 5-generation picture sometime.

The rest of the week consisted of the regular missionary stuff. There's one lesson that really stands out in my mind this week though. It was with the wife of the Jehovah's Witness we were teaching. We had a member with us to teach just her and at first she was not into the lesson at all. After a few minutes she started to gain interest and asked some good questions. One of them was why God would let one of his children die. Once again, I had that covered and the lesson was super awesome. She had already started reading the Book of Mormon but was feeling unsure about it so we committed her to pray before and after reading which she hadn't been doing. At the end of the lesson we asked her to pray and she gave one of the most sincere prayers I've heard on my mission. It was beautiful. Unfortunately, her husband decided they both needed to move out from the member's house they were living in. We have no idea where they are now but at least they had a good opportunity to accept the gospel. I wouldn't be surprised if the wife did some day. The husband too but that may take a little longer.

It'll be a little tough to leave Joshua behind and especially the resident poochies (Jack, Murphy and Sam) but I'm excited to experience a little more of the mission. Being in the Hurst Stake will definitely be different. For one, I checked the weather and it's supposed to get up to 29 degrees Celsius on Friday. I don't know how to feel about that in the middle of winter... Wish me luck and have a good week!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Friday, February 19, 2016

February 8, 2016 - Joshua, Texas

Dear Family,

I don't have any weird or crazy stories for you but it was a good week. On P-Day we went to the Fort Worth Zoo as a zone. There was a Texas Town exhibit near the end with cows, geese and stuff which I found funny. I'd seen every single animal there at some point while tracting in Joshua. I'll be sending a few pictures.

We actually had a pretty successful week as far as lessons go. I think I set a personal record for most in one week. It's encouraging to actually see more happening in the area right now. We still don't have any progressing investigators and we didn't have anyone we're teaching come to sacrament but that'll come soon enough.

Unfortunately I may not get to see it since I've been here four transfers and I'm almost done training Elder Balser. This means I'll most likely be leaving Joshua next week. It'll be weird to leave here; Joshua is all I've known a mission to be. At least I'll be finished with my 24 weeks of the 12 week program! I definitely got more out of it the second time but it does start to drag on a little. They should really think of filming some of those Preach My Gospel videos in Joshua sometime. They would be a little more entertaining then. Anyway, Joshua's treated me well the last few months but I'm excited to see what it's like elsewhere in the mission.

The only story I have for ya'll this week comes from  a lesson we had with a less-active on Saturday. These people live way out in the middle of nowhere Godley and you have to drive up a long, narrow, and terribly bumpy dirt road to get there. Once we meandered our way up the full length of this road we sat down for a lesson with the husband who is a member and his wife who is not. We started talking about building faith then moved to the Book of Mormon. The husband rather gripingly asked us what makes the Book of Mormon any better than every other religious book so we explained that it's a second witness and that the bible is still completely necessary. They weren't really having it and the wife explained that her in-laws gave her a Book of Mormon which she got about half way through. She didn't really feel the need to pray about it or anything but somehow, after some more conversation, it came out that their toddler has a brain tumor. I jumped on that opportunity by using my experience with Ayla's passing to testify of the Book of Mormon and Plan of Salvation. By the time I was done speaking the wife said, "I guess we'll try praying about the Book of Mormon." It was a neat experience. That was probably the first time I'd ever used that experience to actually teach a principle of the Gospel and it felt good.  I know they felt something they can't ignore so we'll be following up with them soon.

Other than that my week was pretty uninteresting. I'll let you know what happens with transfers next week! Take care!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Saturday, February 13, 2016

February 1, 2016 - Joshua, Texas - Missions are weird sometimes

Dear Family,

I'll just get right to it. The last couple days have been a little weird. I'm not sure if I've mentioned more about those girls in Godley who we tracted into a month ago but we've been back a couple other times. Once the father answered and said, "We're not interested and my daughters aren't home." He didn't tell us not to come back so we did and got the younger girl. We gave her a Book of Mormon and said we'd come back next week. Yesterday we went back again, knocked, and heard someone coming to the door. It went like so:
*man mumbles*
*girl mumbles*
"You may not answer that door"
"You will not answer that door!"
"But, DAD! Please!"
*more dad yells*

From the sound of the girl screams, I would've thought someone was murdered. But yeah, I think she wants to meet with us. It makes me happy to know that but pains me to know that her dad won't let us. I wish everyone we talked to wanted the gospel that badly. Or any other child, teenager, or adult in the church really. We're looking at other options to get someone other than us to contact her and tell her to go to Possibly through mail... We'll see.

The second weird experience came that night. Suffice it to say that we gave a church tour in which the words "I am [insert full name] and I am a prophet of my Lord." He then showed us a Facebook message from a random lady who claims to have had a dream about him preaching to hundreds. Sadly, this seems to happen a lot on missions. There's a guy in Waco known as the "Waco Prophet" who blesses the traffic as it goes by. Apparently President Ames has had dinner with him. Fun stuff.

Lastly, we were knocking doors in a new neighborhood yesterday and one guy was outside saying goodbye to whom I assume was his child and grandchildren. He motioned for us to come over after they left, met us halfway and said, "Before we start let me tell you: I've got God, I've got a security system, I've got insurance, I've got a 40 caliber automatic, and I've got an attitude!" Elder Balser then said, "Can we--" and he shouted, "No! Now leave!"

I'd like to know what he'd do if someone said that to his grandchildren. All Elder Balser was going to ask was what kind of gun he had but we left anyway.  The rest of the street was super nice in contrast though. None of them wanted to hear from us, but they were nice about it.

Missions are weird but the ups make up for the downs. Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien

Sunday, February 7, 2016

January 25, 2016 - You're Not a Loser - Joshua, Texas

Hello Family!

It was a packed week for me with the giant service project, Tuesday P-Day, and the Worldwide Missionary Broadcast. On top of that we also interviews with President Ames on Friday which ends up being almost a full-day deal.

I guess I'll start with P-Day. After shopping, emailing, etc. we went to the Fort Worth Water Gardens in downtown and spent some time with the two Fort Worth zones. I got stuck driving around downtown because of this so that was fun. It made me a little nervous at first but it went fairly well. Back to the gardens though. They were actually really cool and picturesque which is quite rare for Texas. It was a super nice day too so I definitely had fun. I'll send a few pictures. Also, right as we got there this younger couple walked up and the guy said, "Hey, I saw your nametags. Are you in the Fort Worth mission?" To which we said yes. He then told us that he finished his mission here a year and a half ago and that he was visiting with his wife. He sure didn't do a good job of defying stereotypes, but hey, it was cool to see him.

As Eric mentioned, we had a Worldwide Missionary Broadcast on Wednesday. The trainings they gave were definitely worth the couple hours from our day. I loved how they emphasized baptizing converts. We discussed that as a zone later and decided that it sounds redundant at first but it's really profound when you think about it. Our purpose is to help people become converted to the Gospel BEFORE baptism. When they are baptized it should be out of a complete understanding of the Gospel. They also need to have lived the parts of the gospel up to that point, namely faith in Jesus Christ and repentance. I also liked the training that was given about finding as you teach by asking, "Who do you know who..." and then filling in various life is events that may cause a softening of the heart.

After the broadcast we had to take our car in to get that dent fixed from last month. The Burleson Elders gave us a ride back from the repair shop and from there we became a bike area. It wasn't too bad the first couple days because we got rides everywhere and mostly did planning but it got a little rough on Friday when we had to get up early and bike five miles to church. All I can say is that you don't realize how hilly Texas is until you have to bike it. The reason we did this is because we needed a ride to interviews from Burleson but they were low on miles. We had to compromise somehow and us biking five miles one way, literally up hill both ways, seemed to be the best solution. I'm sure if I was in shape it would've been fine, but alas, I was not.

Interviews went well though. President Ames is just awesome so it was a good day. At lunchtime our district was talking in the kitchen about some of the missionaries who just went home and Elder Luke mentioned that his previous companion kept joking about doing disobedient things (nothing serious) and said, "What are they going to do, send me home?" Elder Luke said he would just think, "Noooo! They'd send me home too!" As soon as he said that, President Ames walked in and said, "Nobody's
going home, not on my watch!" It was hilarious.

The actual interview was awesome too of course. My favorite thing from it was when he told me about Neil L. Anderson's training for mission presidents a couple years ago. He said that Elder Anderson pulled all the wives aside and told them, "Sometimes I come home from a long day and tell my wife 'I feel like such a loser.' She always lovingly tells me with a smile, 'You're not a loser,' and that makes me feel better instantly." President Ames said that since then Sister Ames has always used that same line when he feels like a loser and it always makes them both laugh. So, he told me to imagine him, Sister Ames, or somebody saying "you're not a loser :)" when I feel down. I've tried it and it totally works. Mom and Dad, I encourage you to smile and do the same when the other is feeling down. Try not to have happy thoughts then! I also came up with a cheesy statement to go along with President Ames' "Fire burns wood but tempers steel. I am made of steel." Mine is, "I always feel like the wood--until I look back and realize the fire made me stronger." True statement.

Anyvays, I love ya'll and you certainly are not losers!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)