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)